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The Barbara Panvel Column



Why is it that stroke victims seem to be the forgottenarmy of the NHS?

Last July, a close family member was diagnosed as having had a stroke and the consultant agreed with the GP's request to treat this as urgent and give a brain scan within the week.

Yet seven days later - no sign of the scan.

His condition then deteriorated, and he was admitted to hospital.

Despite this worsening a condition and regardless of the earlier request, the ‘urgent' scan was finally given a month later, just 16 days before his death.

Sadly this is not unusual. Not in this country anyway.

In New York - and how often we love to deride US healthcare - 75% of stroke victims are given a scan within three hours.

In this country - the home of the welfare state - similar emergency treatment given to only 0.2% of cases, according to the shadow health minister, Andrew Lansley, who suffered a stroke himself at the age of 36.

Frustrated GPs have been asking the Health Minister why they cannot get quicker treatment for their patients, tespecially as UK guidelines say all such patients should be checked within seven days.

Radiographers have warned that the queues are driven up by staff shortages, with many hospitals unable to use their scanners properly because they do not have the experts to interpret the results. Most scanning units do not work at weekends and on Bank Holidays.

It's a false economy.

150,000 people a year in this country suffer a stroke, but, if diagnosed and treated with the same urgency as heart attack, in many cases brain damage could be minimised and paralysis avoided.

Don't just take my word for it - that's the viewof Professor Peter Rothwell of the Stroke Prevention Research Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, University of Oxford.

Professor Rothwell has campaigned for years for prompt diagnosis and treatment, which would - in many cases - prevent the decline into disability.

He points out that, by removing the need for expensive long-term care, human and financial resources could be redirected to staffing scanning units so that work could continue at the weekend and former patients could continue to lead life to the full.

Pardon the pun - but it's surely a no-brainer.


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