Cost of caring for Northern Ireland stroke patients could triple to £1.5bn
Strokes are costing £484 million a year in Northern Ireland - and the bill could triple to more than £1.5bn over the next two decades, a leading charity has warned.
A growing population, increasing numbers of survivors and rising care costs will drive up the financial burden, the Stroke Association said.
The equivalent UK-wide figure of £25.6bn a year sets the cost of stroke on a par with dementia, which costs the UK £26.3bn annually, a report out today suggests.
Stroke is a life-threatening medical condition caused by the brain having part of the blood supply cut off by a clot, or a blood vessel in the brain bursting.
Survivors are usually left with long-term problems requiring added care.
Stroke is now the largest cause of adult disability in Northern Ireland.
Families and carers are left to shoulder the responsibility for the care of survivors, and sometimes give up their jobs to look after their loved ones, whose lives are turned upside down.
Stroke can leave some unable to walk, communicate or read and write.
More than 4,000 people suffer a stroke each year here, and 36,000-plus currently live with the after-effects.
The £484m cost of stroke in Northern Ireland includes:
- £29m in lost productivity.
- £64m in health care.
- £96m in formal social care.
- and £296m per year in informal care.
Barry Macaulay, Northern Ireland director at the Stroke Association, said: "Researchers now predict that in less than 20 years' time stroke could cost Northern Ireland about £1.5bn every year.
"With the number of people living with the after-effects of a stroke set to soar, and the cost of the condition spiralling, we need to see radical changes in the way stroke is prioritised in Northern Ireland.
"We need urgent action to make sure we have the best possible system in place to help stroke survivors and their carers.
"We welcome the fact that Health and Social Care has begun a process to reshape hospital and community-based stroke services in Northern Ireland.
"This is a golden opportunity to develop world-class stroke services, which deliver the long-term support many stroke survivors desperately need.
"This process will help more stroke survivors return to work, live independently, and take control of their lives again, while easing the enormous financial and emotional pressures that far too many family members face."
The research by Queen Mary University and LSE found that if funders began to make a sustained £60m investment across these priority areas of UK stroke research, this could lead to an overall saving of up to £10bn by 2035.
Despite the similarities in national costs, just £48 is spent on medical research per stroke patient, compared with £118 for every dementia patient. Professor Anita Patel, who led the research, said: "It is clear that informal carers make a huge contribution to stroke care, and that social care costs will increase substantially by 2035.
"There's no doubt that this will present real societal challenges in future.
"However, our research findings also show that there is great potential to alleviate some of these costs through increased investment in research."