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Thousands Denied ‘Miracle’ Stroke Treatment Helping Patients ‘Near Death’

An organization has expressed concerns that thousands of stroke sufferers are being refused access to a “miracle treatment” that could bring them back from the verge of death.

According to the Stroke Association, if NHS England and the Government don’t act right away, more than 47,000 individuals would not receive treatment through the NHS over the course of the next seven years.

With a catheter put into the patient’s groin, a stent is used to physically remove big blood clots that could lead to strokes from the brain.

The operation can shorten hospital stays by several months, and some patients have been able to leave the hospital the very following day instead of needing to stay in rehabilitation facilities for months.

The Stroke Association claims that thrombectomy, one of the most successful stroke treatments ever identified, is appropriate for about 10% of all patients. In England, there are more than 75,000 strokes annually.

According to the charity’s most recent study, all patients must have access to a 24-hour thrombectomy service in order for them to benefit.

It predicts that this would result in annual savings of £73 million due to lower long-term care expenses for stroke patients.

According to the study, NHS England has fallen short of its goal to provide mechanical thrombectomy to all patients who would benefit from it by only providing treatment to 28% of all eligible patients by December 2021.

According to stroke specialists cited in the study, one reason they are unable to provide a 24-hour service is because there aren’t enough biplane suites, which contain specialized radiological equipment.

The organisation also drew attention to an “awful postcode lottery” in healthcare, with nearly 8% of stroke patients having thrombectomy in London but barely 0% to 3% in other regions of the nation.

Only 25% of thrombectomy facilities offer 24-hour coverage, and 42% are only open from Monday through Friday during regular business hours, according to the survey.

The first six hours following a stroke are when thrombectomy is most successful, though it can be done up to 24 hours later.

Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said:

Thrombectomy is a miracle treatment that pulls patients back from near-death and alleviates the worst effects of stroke. It’s shocking that so many patients are missing out and being saddled with unnecessary disability. Plus, the lack of understanding from Government, the NHS and local health leaders about the brain-saving potential of thrombectomy is putting lives at risk. There are hard-working clinicians across the stroke pathway facing an uphill struggle to provide this treatment and it’s time they got the support they need to make this happen. It really is simple.

Ms Bouverie said thrombectomy rates “are rising gradually” due to the efforts of stroke teams, “but progress is far slower than it needs to be”.

She added:

Tens of thousands will miss out if rates stay the same as in 2020/21. NHS England’s original target was missed by a long way and we need to see proper efforts being made to make sure we’re not in the same position in 2029.

According to the latest data, long ambulance response times and slow patient transfers to A&E also contribute to low thrombectomy rates.

The Stroke Association estimated that two times as many interventional neuroradiologists (INRs) would be required to provide a 24-hour service.

In order to fill the deficiencies in competent workers, it also urged the Department of Health and Social Care to create a sustainable workforce plan.

Professor Martin James, a clinical trustee for the Stroke Association and a specialist stroke doctor at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said:

Thrombectomy really is a game-changing treatment, yet the number of people receiving the treatment in the UK remains much lower than elsewhere in Europe, and has been only slowly increasing over recent years. At this rate, it won’t be available to all those who could benefit for many years to come.

An NHS spokeswoman said:

Despite the impact of the pandemic, NHS teams across the country have continued to improve stroke prevention and treatment services – including access to thrombectomy – in line with our Long Term Plan ambitions to save more lives. By bringing services together through newly-created stroke networks, we are supporting local clinicians to deliver 24/7 access to thrombectomy, clot-busting drugs and other life-saving specialist stroke services in every part of the country, so if you experience stroke symptoms, it’s vital that you call 999 immediately.

A Government spokesman said:

We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors and 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019. We are grateful for healthcare staff across the country who continue to improve stroke prevention and treatment services – including access to thrombectomy – as part of the ambitious NHS Long Term Plan.

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