National Stroke Strategy October 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Government’s lack of intention to renew the National Stroke Strategy, [and the Stroke Association’s related A New Era for Stroke campaign].

I share your concerns of the importance of excellent stroke care and treatment, and the need for a continuing strategy to ensure improvements in such treatment continue.

Strokes are a very serious health issue – they are the fourth biggest killer in the UK, and of the 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, half will have a disability as a result. The National Stroke Strategy, published in 2007 by the Labour government at the time, has made strides in improving care and treatments levels for Stroke survivors. I am very proud of these achievements. For example, all hospitals admitting acute stroke patients now have access to brain imaging 24 hours a day and 80% of eligible stroke patients now receive clot busting drugs, giving them a better chance of regaining their independence following a stroke. As a result of measures like these, mortality has almost halved in the UK over the last 20 years. The Government even refers to the excellent progress that has been made, in their official response to an associated petition started by the Stroke Association, which has gained over 30,000 signatures.

Unfortunately, this response to this petition also outlined the Government’s intention not to renew the strategy. I urge the Government to reconsider this, in order to continue driving improvements and make sure that stroke care does not go backwards. A national approach is required as the reorganisation of acute stroke services has stalled - requiring a national push, the specific needs of stroke patients cannot be wholly addressed through the alternatively proposed collaborative CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) approaches, and regional variation in such approaches means stroke care becomes a post-code lottery.

In my constituency of Nottingham North there are around 2,000 stroke survivors that are in need of high-quality post-hospital care. Of all patients in Nottingham North 32% had a brain scan within one hour, well below the national average of 48%. An oft-forgotten aspect of stroke treatment is post-acute care, for which the Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible in my constituency. Unfortunately however there are a number of services, which could be incredibly beneficial to stroke survivors, for which specialist services haven’t been commissioned in our area. Examples of such services which could be particularly helpful include those for speech and language therapy programs or mental health support programs.

This is not to say that there have been no successes in Nottingham. Of all qualified Nottingham patients 99% have received clot-busting drug treatment - a key success of the previous National Stroke Strategy - and 71% of all patients have had access to a stroke treatment unit within four hours, both well above the national average. The Nottingham University Hospital Trust boasts 76 beds in its stroke unit, the highest number in all of the East Midlands, and the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) by the Royal College of Physicians ranks the trust well above the national average and as one of the top two stroke car providers in the region. Even with these successes the need for exceptional care for survivors, both in Nottingham and across the UK, is therefore evident and requires a well-planned and well-enacted approach.

The Labour party has always had an excellent NHS record, including introducing the original National Stroke Strategy in 2007. In our 2015 election manifesto, which I was elected on, we promised to continue to improve the NHS, and improving levels of personal care, such as that which is of course required by stroke survivors, was a key part of that promise.

I can assure you I will continue to monitor this issue and will continue to press the government to continue improving stroke care and treatment nationwide. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views on this important issue.