Making sure there’s better support for stroke survivors

Ian Simmonds and daughter Laura at the Great Manchester Run

Ian Simmonds and daughter Laura at the Great Manchester Run

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New figures published today by the Stroke Association show more than two-fifths of stroke survivors in the North West feel abandoned when they leave hospital.

When Chorley dad Ian Simmonds suffered a stroke, the support he received after leaving hospital made a big difference.

Jon Barrick, chief executive at the Stroke Association

Jon Barrick, chief executive at the Stroke Association

The stroke happened either during or just after surgery to remove a brain tumour in 2012.

As a result, Ian’s concentration and speech were affected, plus he has hearing problems and fatigue.

The biggest challenge for Ian, of Worcester Place, Duxbury, was regaining his mobility and he could only walk 50 yards when he left hospital.

But Ian, who was cared for at Salford Royal Hospital and Royal Preston Hospital, had support to help him progress.

“Stroke survivors have told us that they have had to wait weeks – and in some cases months – for the support and therapy they need to rebuild their lives. For too many people, their support comes too late, it stops too soon, or they don’t have access to all types of therapy they need.”

Jon Barrick, Stroke Association

He said: “My experiences were very positive in that I got a lot from all the medical professionals, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, which I think is vital to people recovering as much as they can from a stroke.”

Ian, now 59, did physiotherapy and balance exercises at the Minerva Centre in Preston.

He then joined the “fit squad” at All Seasons Leisure Centre in Chorley for six months to help him start exercising again.

Before the stroke, he had completed the 10km Great Manchester Run every year.

After missing it in 2013, his progress meant he was able to return in 2014 to walk the course with his daughter Laura and raise money for the Stroke Association.

They did it again last year and on Sunday they will take part once again, aiming to finish in one hour and 45 minute.

But not all stroke patients get the support that Ian did when leaving hospital.

He said: “I think the support varies and that’s the problem. There needs to be more consistency to help people.”

According to new figures published today by the Stroke Association, 46 per cent of patients in the North West felt abandoned when they left hospital.

More than a third (42 per cent) of stroke survivors reported leaving hospital without a care plan and two-fifths (46 per cent) said they were not contacted by a healthcare professional when they went home.

A third (32 per cent) stated that they did not receive a six-month assessment of their health and social care needs.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “These findings are deeply concerning. Currently, too many stroke survivors feel abandoned when they return home as they are not given the right support to begin their rehabilitation. Major strides have been made in the way stroke is treated in hospital; however the same is not true when stroke survivors return home. No-one plans for a stroke, but the Government can, and should, ensure that the right care and support is there when people need it most.”

The survey, which involved more than 1,100 people in England, also found stroke survivors did not have access to the therapy and support needed to cope with the impact of a stroke.

A quarter (24 per cent) of survivors in the North West with a physical disability rated the amount of therapy they received at home for physical disabilities as either very poor or poor, while more than half (52 per cent) of survivors with memory problems said access to support for this was very poor or poor.

The Stroke Association is launching a major new campaign called A New Era For Stroke, which calls on the Government to commit to a new stroke strategy.

The current 10-year National Stroke Strategy For England, which was introduced to improve standards in treatment and support for people affected by strokes, ends in 2017.

As part of its campaign, the charity is launching a petition at www.stroke.org.uk/newera calling on the Government to commit to a new strategy.

Mr Barrick said: “Stroke survivors have told us that they have had to wait weeks – and in some cases months – for the support and therapy they need to rebuild their lives. For too many people, their support comes too late, it stops too soon, or they don’t have access to all types of therapy they need.

“We successfully campaigned for the first strategy 10 years ago which has led to dramatic improvements in the way stroke is treated in hospital. However this has not carried through to the support that people need once they return home. The Government has said they don’t have plans to renew the stroke strategy, yet over half of stroke survivors in the North West have said a national plan is needed. That’s why we’re urging people to sign our petition calling on the Government to bring in a new era for stroke.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Action is being taken to ensure the progress made in the National Stroke Strategy continues, so that clinical care for stroke patients is of the highest quality. We know that good progress has been made, with mortality rates decreasing.

“Over 78 per cent of patients are assessed by a specialist stroke physician within 24 hours of admission, demonstrating that stroke services are making good progress in delivering seven day specialist medical services.

“NICE have developed guidelines for social care so that staff and providers have clear standards, and we expect them to be followed.”