Thousands in Northern Ireland ‘could be spared devastation of stroke’

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Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
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A new report, published today by the Stroke Association, reveals that over 110,000 people in the UK could be saved from having a stroke by 2035 if research into the latest stroke prevention procedures were properly funded.

 

 

The charity’s latest report, Current, future and avoidable costs of stroke in the UK, warns that over the next 20 years, more people every year will be living with stroke.

This means that the annual number of stroke survivors living in Northern Ireland could more than double to over 57,000 people by 2035. The report also warns that around a third (19,000) of those people could be living with long-term disabilities.

However, the findings also reveal that a £10 million investment into prevention research could change the story and save 114,000 people in the UK from having a stroke.

Following a recent pre-consultation which set out plans to reshape stroke services – including possible changes to the location of specialist stroke units – the charity is also calling for Health and Social Care bodies to improve stroke prevention to spare thousands of people in Northern Ireland from the devastating impact of stroke.

 

 

Barry Macaulay, Director for the Stroke Association in Northern Ireland said, “The fact is that most strokes are preventable but there’s still a lot we don’t know. This report highlights some of the key areas that desperately need investment.

“We are currently funding a number of smaller studies focusing on stroke prevention, including blood pressure management, treatments for atrial fibrillation (AF), and the prevention of haemorrhagic stroke.  

“The annual number of stroke survivors is expected to increase dramatically by 2035 and the cost to the NHS in Northern Ireland is set to rise to over £203 million in 2035 from around £64 million in 2015(i). It’s clear that we need to act now to prevent Northern Ireland from sleepwalking towards a stroke crisis,” he insisted.

“Over the next few months Health and Social Care will be reviewing the feedback to the recent Reshaping Stroke pre-consultation and preparing proposals to transform stroke services in Northern Ireland.

 

 

“This is a golden opportunity to develop world class stroke services and improve the quality of life for stroke survivors and their families in Northern Ireland but crucially it’s also an opportunity to improve stroke prevention services.

Barry added, “Better supporting people to identify their risk factors, get treatment and make lifestyle changes will spare thousands of families from the devastating impact of stroke in the first place.”

 Currently, the Stroke Association estimates that there are almost 37,000 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland and almost 35,000 people are known to have AF which increases a person’s risk of stroke five times.

However, many patients are on a treatment that is not effectively lowering their stroke risk, or may not even have had the condition diagnosed. Around 260,000 people have been diagnosed with high blood pressure in Northern Ireland, which is the biggest controllable risk factor for stroke. However, it’s thought that a further 180,000 may be unaware that they have the condition.

 

 

Barry continued, “Stroke causes a greater range of disabilities than any other condition, but research into stroke remains underfunded. For example, haemorrhagic stroke is the most deadly type of stroke, and those patients who do survive are more likely to experience severe disability.

“But currently there are no effective treatments for these strokes, which are caused by bleeds rather than clots in the brain. We urgently need to find effective ways to prevent the devastation that haemorrhagic stroke can bring, as well preventing and managing conditions with a higher risk of stroke, such as AF and high blood pressure.” 

The study, which was sponsored by Legal & General, was undertaken at Queen Mary University of London and London School of Economics. The researchers took into account likely changes to the population, as well as expert views on potential future trends in the numbers of first-time strokes and survivors after stroke each year when calculating these latest projections. The team also estimated the benefits of investing more funds into stroke research.

 

 

 Professor Anita Patel, who led the research, said, “Our findings suggest that more people are likely to survive stroke over the next 20 years, and by 2035 many hundreds of thousands of stroke survivors will be living with long-term disabilities.  

 “Increasing our investment into stroke research will help us turn the tide for people with a higher risk of stroke, allowing us to take steps to prevent the condition more widely. For example, we know that current treatments for high blood pressure do not work for everyone, and are not always used properly.

“More research could help us discover which medication and dosage works best for different people, ensuring we can help prevent more people from having a stroke. This in turn would help to ease the pressure on the already overstretched NHS budgets,” he added. 

 

 

 The Stroke Association’s Change The Story campaign, aims to highlight the underfunding of stroke research and calls on people to donate to towards research funding. People can do this by visiting www.stroke.org.uk/change and also get more information about the report Current, future and avoidable costs of stroke in the UK.  


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