Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Manifesto
One in five people in Ireland will have a stroke at some time in their life.
Until recently, many believed stroke was a disease for which little or nothing could be done.
We now know that strokes are among the most preventable and treatable of all diseases.
But hundreds of people are dying each year when their lives could be saved. And hundreds more are being needlessly condemned to permanent disability for the want of vital service improvements.
How can change be secured?
We are asking people – regardless of whether their lives have yet been touched by stroke – to join our campaign urging the Government to implement the measures that will eliminate avoidable death and disability from stroke. Most of these are contained in a report by experts appointed by Health Minister Mary Harney called the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group.
We are calling on the Government to implement 16 recommendations:
MANIFESTO POINT 1: Preventing Stroke
Up to 50% of strokes are preventable. This means that 5,000 strokes a year and 1,000 deaths could be avoided if people took simple steps to cut down their risk. But very few people are aware they can dramatically reduce their chances of having a stroke.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to deliver a major programme to educate the public on how to reduce their risk of having a stroke or a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA).
MANIFESTO POINT 2: Stroke as a medical emergency
Most people don’t know that immediate medical treatment after stroke can make the difference between recovery, death or permanent dependency. Irish Heart Foundation research shows that the vast majority of people would not know if they were having a stroke. And less than half would ring an ambulance if they knew they were having a stroke. Greater awareness would save many lives by getting more people into hospital quicker.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to support a national campaign to increase public awareness of the warning signs of stroke and to ensure stroke is recognised as a medical emergency.
MANIFESTO POINT 3: Stroke unit care
The provision of stroke units in acute hospitals could reduce death and dependency rates by 20% - saving up to 500 lives a year and sparing hundreds more from disabilities requiring long-term institutional care.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to ensure that every hospital admitting patients with acute stroke has a properly staffed and fully resourced stroke unit.
MANIFESTO POINT 4: Stroke unit standards
Any dilution in the definition of what constitutes a stroke unit, or any operational failure to comply with international standards, especially in relation to capacity, staffing and equipment will reduce their effectiveness and cost lives.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to ensure the HSE complies with European Stroke Organisation Guidelines in the delivery of a national network of stroke units and to continually monitor compliance with these standards.
MANIFESTO POINT 5: Clot-busting treatment
Treatment with clot-busting drugs – thrombolysis – prevents death and disability from stroke, but must be delivered to eligible patients within 3 hours. In the 12 months to April 2009 less than 3% of stroke patients received the treatment. Thrombolysis is currently provided to stroke patients at just over half the country’s acute hospitals but in many of these only on a 9am-5pm Monday-Friday basis.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to urgently deliver 24/7 availability of thrombolysis to all suitable stroke patients.
MANIFESTO POINT 6: Emergency services
The average stroke destroys two million brain cells every minute. Trained ambulance staff, telemedicine support and properly equipped ambulances and emergency departments are crucial to the prompt treatment of stroke patients.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to guarantee that emergency services are equipped and empowered to deal with acute strokes.
MANIFESTO POINT 7: Consultant stroke physicians
There are 27 lead stroke consultant in Irish acute hospitals. However, there are as few as three whose clinical remit is given over substantially to stroke. This shortage of specialists is exacerbated by the fact that stroke can be difficult to identify. At least 15% of strokes and half of TIA's are currently misdiagnosed in Ireland. The failure to provide the correct diagnosis in over 1,500 cases carries devastating consequences for patients.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to appoint more consultant stroke physicians to provide greater expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke.
MANIFESTO POINT 8: TIA clinics
Patients who suffer TIAs or mini-strokes are at much greater risk of having a full stroke. Even though TIA services can reduce repeat mini-strokes or strokes by 80%, they are provided in just one in every six acute hospitals in Ireland.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to provide 24/7 consultant-led rapid access TIA clinics on a regional basis that are open seven days a week.
MANIFESTO POINT 9: Rehabilitation services
Acute rehabilitation is not available to the vast majority of stroke patients which causes unnecessary suffering to thousands of people each year.
Each patient should be entitled to receive a minimum of 45 minutes of required rehabilitation 5-7 days a week for as long as it is needed. This should include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, clinical psychology, speech and language therapy and nutrition and dietetic input provided by both hospital and community based stroke teams.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to give every patient an entitlement to appropriate levels of short and long term rehabilitation in hospital and in the community.
MANIFESTO POINT 10: Planned discharge and after-care
Continuing care and long-term recovery programmes are haphazardly organised or do not exist. Patients should receive a co-ordinated service that ensures:
• Rehabilitation that is planned from the day of hospital admission
• A full needs assessment supporting discharge home
• Clear structures for collaboration between hospital and community stroke staff
• Access to stroke rehabilitation in the community
• Access to relevant information and advice, along with a contact person after discharge from hospital
• Aftercare and long-term support for people suffering lasting disability
• For those requiring nursing home care, access to full therapist and support services
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to ensure the right of each patient to a planned and timely transition from hospital to their home or residential care. We also urge that long-term institutional care should only be provided on the basis of medical and social need, never because of inadequate community services or supports.
MANIFESTO POINT 11: Regional stroke co-ordination and implementation supervision
Just as there are regional cancer co-ordinators, the complexity of stroke means that regional co-ordinators must be appointed to ensure that preventive, pre-hospital, hospital and community services are working together and developing and meeting targets on excellence in stroke care.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to appoint regional stroke co-ordinators with responsibility for ensuring that stroke services are meeting the needs of people who’ve had a stroke in every community in Ireland.
MANIFESTO POINT 12: Tackling age discrimination
Age-related inequities are common within stroke services. In some locations over-65s do not receive rehabilitation services, whilst in others under-65s are ineligible for community services.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to eliminate age discrimination from stroke services. These should always be provided on the basis of individual need.
MANIFESTO POINT 13: Patients’ charter
Most people don’t know that high quality stroke services can save lives, reduce disability and improve the rate of recovery from stroke. Many are also unaware of what services will best aid their recovery.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to ensure the adoption of a charter to inform all stroke patients, their families and carers exactly what their entitlements are in relation to hospital treatment, care and rehabilitation.
MANIFESTO POINT 14: Stroke register
A stroke register will help ensure that stroke services operate as effectively as possible. Collecting basic data on stroke patients will assist with planning and monitoring of performance that can have a major impact on patient outcomes and the overall quality of services.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to prioritise the development of a national stroke register.
MANIFESTO POINT 15: Social and vocational supports
Social and vocational supports must be available to help people put their lives back together after stroke. For example, everyone should have access to a stroke support group. In addition, financial assistance such as housing adaptations grants can make the difference between living at home and institutionalisation. Support to return to work, or undergo re-training can determine whether a person can return to the workforce. These supports are not just crucial in human terms, they can save the State money.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to ensure that social and vocational supports are available enabling stroke patients to achieve the best possible quality of life after their stroke. We also call for State assistance to ensure that everyone who’s had a stroke has access to a properly-resourced support group.
MANIFESTO POINT 16: Supporting carers
Carers carry a huge burden in helping people to put their lives back together after stroke.
WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT to address the social, emotional and practical needs of carers in supporting stroke survivors.