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What will make the difference for stroke patients?

By Sundeep Gupta, PA digital expert

Strokes are the UK’s second biggest killer, and the most common cause of disability. And while we’ve seen some real improvements in treatment and care over recent years, there’s still a lot more to be done to provide the highest quality support to patients.

It’s for this reason that PA and Lord Chadlington, recently brought together a group of health leaders and innovators from life sciences, healthcare and technology backgrounds to discuss what actions would really make the difference. At the event, Andrew Marr, perhaps Britain’s most famous stroke survivor, shared the story of his initial emergency care, his frustrations with post-stroke rehabilitation and his subsequent research into more innovative interventions.

So how can we provide better support for stroke patients?

The starting point has to be prevention

This is something the attendees were very clear on, but NHS England’s ‘Five year forward view’ doesn’t mention stroke care. It’s clear we need more funds and better awareness (including in schools and on the internet) within a broader focus on cardiovascular illnesses. Andrew’s story, where he ignored his early symptoms and delayed getting treatment, was a powerful reminder of the dangers of not acting soon enough.

Collaboration required to improve stroke care

If someone does have a stroke, we need to make sure they benefit from new technologies and treatments. But inconsistent coverage often means they don’t. The group supported NHS Improvement’s Getting It Right First Time campaign which will help by tackling variation in clinical outcomes. But we felt this would only happen when the barriers between NHS organisations are broken down and when there’s political consensus in support of clinical expertise. The networks of care model in NHS London's stroke strategy shows what collaboration can achieve.

Increasing skilled support for patients at home and in the community

This is another area the group saw real potential for improvement. Patients themselves need to be supported in taking more control of their own care alongside informal carers, who also need their own support. We thought groups such as the Stroke Association, Age UK and local networking groups can help to bring resources together – supporting patients and carers, and reducing pressure on NHS services.

Using new approaches and technology to transform care

As the discussion moved on, we recognised technology alone isn’t enough and has to be balanced with individual actions and understanding of their health. One way these could be brought together is through one NHS website which covers broad cardiovascular disease risks, as well as focusing on particular disease types such as stroke. This would allow the public and clinicians to access better information and tools to support their needs. This could also play a role in prevention by providing information to those at risk. 

It was great to be part of such a passionate and energetic discussion, and it’s clear how committed the participants are in taking these conversations forward with colleagues in their organisations, with NHS England and with each other.

The event was part of PA’s “Reinventing Healthcare” campaign and started a conversation which we think can make a difference. It’s a conversation that will continue and if you want to be part of it, please contact Matthew Walker.

Find out more about our work in healthcare.

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