Stroke care

It's well known that one in four people get cancer during the course of their life. It's less well known that almost one in four men and one in five women can expect to have a stroke if they live to 85.

Someone in the UK has a stroke every five minutes.  After heart disease and cancer, it's our biggest killer. More than 250,000 people live with the disabilities it causes.

A report published last week showed that the UK continues to lag behind many of our European counterparts in the delivery of stroke care. I have seen the inadequacies of rehabilitation myself when a friend was disabled by a stroke. And I am frequently reminded of the devastating impact by the letters I receive from local people.

As a result, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Stroke which aims to raise the profile of the issue at Westminster and make it a priority.

Many of those writing to me highlight the problems they face in looking after relatives who have suffered a stroke and, like so many carers, the burden this often imposes on them in terms of both time and money. I particularly worry about the difficulty which elderly relatives have in coping with this.

Others praise the care which their relatives receive in hospital, but feel overwhelmed by the difficulties they face when the patient is discharged, for instance in accessing therapy or receiving advice and help in modifying a home.

Shortening referral times for scanning patients, increasing the proportion treated in a specialist stroke unit and improving access to therapies must be priorities.

Resources, as the past ten years have demonstrated, aren't the whole answer. I know that the NHS has many competing priorities, but we must try to ensure that stroke physicians and nurses are given the backing to deliver the quality of care that people need.

Michelle Taylor