Faster Stroke Treatment Will Save Thousands Of Lives

Armen Hareyan's picture

Anyone in a higher-risk group who suffers a minor stroke will receive an MRI scan within 24 hours under plans to revolutionise stroke services unveiled by the Health Secretary Alan Johnson today.

The strategy aims to accelerate the emergency response to stroke, by setting out a framework for care for those affected by stroke and raising awareness about symptoms and risk factors. By following the actions set out in the strategy, up to 6,800 deaths and cases of disability could be avoided every year. A further 1,600 strokes could be averted through preventative work.

Key measures include:

- MRI scans for higher-risk individuals with Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) - also known as 'minor strokes' - within 24hrs of experiencing symptoms. Within seven days for low-risk individuals. This could lead to an 80 per cent reduction in the number of people who go on to have a full stroke. Currently, less than 35 per cent of providers manage to treat TIA within seven days.

- Immediate transfer of those with suspected stroke to a specialist centre offering immediate clinical assessment, scans and clot-busting drugs. All local areas will have 24/7 coverage by at least one specialist centre.


- Those with stroke requiring urgent brain imaging scanned within the next scan slot during normal working hours, and within 60mins out of hours.

- All individuals with stroke must spend the majority of their time on a stroke unit.

- People affected by stroke and their carers should have immediate access to high quality rehabilitation and support from stroke-skilled services in hospital, allowing people to get home faster. This specialist care should continue for as long as it is needed.

Alan Johnson said:

"This is a bold vision for the delivery of world-class stroke services, from prevention right through to life-long support. There is no excuse for standing still. Stroke is the third biggest killer in England, with 50,000 people dying from it each year. It also has a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of those who do survive, with a third left with long-term disability.

"We have made great strides with stroke, heart disease and cancer in recent years. However, despite the considerable gains in developing stroke units and falling mortality rates, there remains much to be done to bring stroke services in line with those for cancer and heart disease. Now is the time to close that gap. We can and we must now give stroke the attention it deserves. Saving thousands of lives is a prize too great to ignore."

Thanks to record investment over the last ten years, the NHS has the resources to fund changes to stroke services. In addition to this, the Government has committed central funds totalling