Scottish stroke patients ‘face disparity in level of care’

Ros Jack suffered a stroke at the age of 37. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ros Jack suffered a stroke at the age of 37. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Campaigners have raised concerns over a “significant disparity” of care for stroke patients as Scottish hospitals are still failing to hit key standards, a new report revealed.

Stroke patients are entitled to a bundle of care within 24 hours, including admission to a stroke unit, a brain scan, a swallow screen to stop choking and aspirin to thin the blood to prevent another stroke.

A nationwide audit found just 64 per cent of patients received all the necessary care, with vast gaps between hospitals as the Borders General Hospital reported performance of 79 per cent compared to just 44.1 per cent in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The Stroke Association warned that delays to treatment could affect people’s chances of recovery.

Only half of Scottish patients were given clot-busting drugs within an hour of arrival, against a target of 80 per cent.

The number of patients given a swallow screen to stop them from choking has risen to 80 per cent but still fell short of the 90 per cent standard.

A target to ensure patients had a brain scan within 24 hours of arrival was met.

Andrea Cail, Scotland director for the Stroke Association, said: “People who have had a stroke rely on getting to hospital quickly in order to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment.

“We welcome the improvements being made by the Scottish Ambulance Service who are the first point of contact for the majority of people.

“However, we are concerned at the significant disparity across Scotland in delivery of the Stroke Care Bundle – the package of care every stroke patient should get when they are in hospital. This has a knock-on effect on supporting people to achieve the best possible recovery after stroke.”

Stroke is the third biggest killer and leading cause of disability in Scotland. The cost of caring for stroke patients accounts for 5 per cent of the whole NHS bill.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “Ministers need to work with health boards to strengthen their responses to one of the biggest killers in Scotland.”

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said stroke care had been consistently improving but added: “However, there is still more to be done and our action plan sets out a programme for further reducing the number of deaths from both heart disease and stroke.”