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Already struggling Stroke Survivors face more setbacks due to pandemic

Stroke Association calls on Welsh Government to announce new plan for stroke care in Wales ahead of debate in Senedd

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to already struggling stroke survivors and carers finding it hard to get the care and support they need, according to the Stroke Association’s ‘Stroke Recoveries at Risk’ report.

The charity’s report, which includes the views of more than 2,000 stroke survivors and their carers, including around 130 from Wales, shows that the pandemic has had a clear negative impact, as 64% of Welsh stroke survivors said that they had received less care and support to help their stroke recovery(1). This is in addition to stroke services which already left survivors feeling ‘abandoned’ before the pandemic hit with almost a quarter (21%) of stroke survivors in Wales feeling they didnot receive enough support when they needed it most (2).

According to 40% of stroke survivors, appointments related to their stroke were cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic and only 23% went on to receive therapies online or over the phone. This suggests a ‘forgotten’ cohort who were not offered or did not take up virtual therapy and have gone without the necessary rehabilitation and support needed to help their recovery.  Carers of stroke survivors in Wales have also felt the impact of additional pressures during lockdown, with 57% saying they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope(1).

Before the pandemic, stroke survivors were already struggling to have specialist support and treatments in Wales. The recommended six-month reviews are not always routinely undertaken by health boards. Specialist new procedures including thrombectomy, which involves physically removing a blood clot from the brain, are not yet widely available in Wales yetcan vastly improve the chances of a stroke survivor making a good recovery.

Father of two, Stephen Attwood, from Bridgend had a stroke in 2017 when he was just 36 years old. He was transferred to hospital and in Bristol and was one of the handful of people from Wales who were given a thrombectomy that year.

“It saved my life, without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I found out after my stroke that thrombectomy isn’t widely available in Wales, it was a scary thought. I got lucky, my stroke was on a weekday morning and I live fairly near the border with England. If it had happened at a busy time, I might not have had the procedure and might never have been able to speak again.
 

“Thrombectomy should be available to everybody- it shouldn’t be pot luck. If there’s a chance to get the clot out of your brain, it needs to happen. This is why a new stroke delivery plan is needed in Wales as we need services like this to helprebuild lives after stroke.”

 

The Welsh Government’s Stroke Delivery Plan ends in 2022 and the Stroke Association says a new national, strategic plan outlining their approach to stroke care for the future is needed, to ensure stroke remains a priority in Wales.

 

Katie Chappelle, the Stroke Association’s Associate Director for Wales says, “People have continued to have strokes during the pandemic. Stroke is a medical emergency and the NHS stroke teams are still available to treat people having a stroke. We’ve also seen some great innovation with some services being delivered virtually.  But this means that stroke survivors who can’t use the technology aren’t getting the best chance to rebuild their life.”

 

“In Wales we were already concerned about stroke services, which are in need of rapid improvements. We’ve been calling on the Welsh Government to introduce a new dedicated plan for improving stroke services in Wales.  The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on stroke survivors has shown that these changes can’t wait any longer.”

Dr. Dai Lloyd MS will today (27 January 2021) lead a debate on the Senedd on stroke care during Covid-19 and will call for a new national plan for stroke in Wales. 

 

Dr. Dai Lloyd MS said, “We are at a pivotal time for stroke care in Wales. It is vital that a new plan for stroke is created that prioritises strengthening stroke services, to help ensure they are better able to cope with future challenges faced by the health service in Wales after covid-19.  The Cross Party Group on Stroke’s Report of the Inquiry into the Implementation of the Stroke Delivery Plan and Stroke recoveries at Risk report offers clear, achievable recommendations for policy makers across Wales. This motion has cross-party support and the debate will bring stroke care to the forefront of policy makers in Wales’s minds today.”