Disease that kills the brain
A scan is essential for accurate diagnosis hours and one for every 14 at four and a half hours. So time is absolutely critical.
Raising public awareness of the symptoms of stroke through the Fast campaign, training the paramedics to identify possible stroke rapidly and getting the patient to a hospital set up to receive stroke patients regardless of the time of day or day of the week, is vital.
A new treatment has recently been shown in research trials to be effective and somehow we are going to need to find a way of making it widely available in the health service. It involves directly putting a wire into the blood vessel that is blocked, snaring the blood clot and pulling it out. This treatment for a small proportion of the stroke population can be life-transforming.
However good the early treatment, there will inevitably still be many people left with disability as a consequence of stroke. Skilful care by the team of therapists, nurses and doctors working with the patient and their family can get someone from being bedbound and unable to do anything for themselves to someone independent with a good quality of life.
Recovery can take many months or in some cases years, so treatment must not be stopped too early. Much of this should take place once the person is back in their own home.
U n f o r t u - nately about 10 and 20 per cent of people who have a stroke wil l di e a s a r e s u l t . Making sure that the patient dies with dignity and without suffering is as important an aspect of stroke care as the other treatments discussed.
We should be enabling this to happen i n people’s own homes rather than in hospital wherever possible, with the necessary support available for everyone concerned.
It is time we as a community started taking stroke seriously.
It may not be a “fashionable” disease that attracts the same degree of sympathy and attention as cancer or childhood diseases but with proper treatment and more research funding we could hugely reduce the impact of the disease both by preventing it in the first place and minimising its effects when it does occur.
Between 10 and 20 per cent of people who suffer a stroke die
Professor Tony Rudd is NHS England’s national clinical director for strokes. This is a version of his lecture given at last week’s Jewish Care Health Insights session. For more information about the Health Insights events, hosted by Jewish Care in partnership with the JC, go to www.jewishcare.org/health-insightevenings or call 0208 922 2837