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Wednesday, April 14, 1999 Published at 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK


Stroke care in crisis

The survey revealed big regional variations in care

Thousands of stroke victims are dying needlessly because they do not receive proper care, a report claims.

The survey by the Stroke Association found that at least five people die every day, and a further seven or more are disabled because of poorly organised health service stroke care.

The association says most doctors dealing with people who have suffered strokes feel they do not know enough about the condition.

The BBC's Toby Sealey looks at two patients who had very different levels of care
Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK and is the main cause of severe disability.

The Association is now calling for the creation of more specialist units to tackle what is the most common cause of death and disability in the UK.

Care differs by area

The study highlights geographical variations in the quality of care that stroke patients receive in the UK.

Treatment in a specialist unit can reduce the chance of dying or being institutionalised by 25%, according to the Stroke Association.

With more than 100,000 new cases of stroke each year, this means that 7,000 people a year die or are institutionalised because of poor care and treatment.

The report, called Stroke Care - A Matter of Chance, was based on questionnaires filled in by more than 2,000 hospital consultants.

The findings include:

  • The majority of stroke patients are managed by consultants in general medical specialties (54%) and geriatic medicine (27%)
  • Only three per cent of consultants lookng after stroke patients identified themselves as specialists in stroke medicine
  • The number of patients managed by consultants from different specialties varies widely, with geriatricians and stroke medicine specialists responsible on average for nine and 15 patients on the day of the survey respectively
  • Over a third of hospital consultants said social workers provided inadequate time for their patients
  • Many consultants complained of delays in the organisation of community and social services home care, including meals and home helps

Report author Professor Shah Ebrahim, from Bristol University, said: "Around half of stroke patients are not getting the best care available.

"This means, each year, up to 7,000 stroke patients die or suffer disability that might have been avoided."

Professor John Marshall, of The Stroke Association, said: "It is frightening that at least five people a day are dying because they do not have access to co-ordinated stroke care.

"The government has promised equal access to NHS care no matter where an individual lives. It is now becoming urgent that they implement this promise for stroke care."

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