Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stroke survivors are deserving of better

Early intervention can save the life of someone who has suffered a stroke and mitigate its effects. But unlike many other traumas, the impact of the brain injury can be long lasting and requiring ongoing support
Early intervention can save the life of someone who has suffered a stroke and mitigate its effects. But unlike many other traumas, the impact of the brain injury can be long lasting and requiring ongoing support

Editor's Viewpoint

Early intervention can save the life of someone who has suffered a stroke and mitigate its effects. But unlike many other traumas, the impact of the brain injury can be long lasting and requiring ongoing support.

Yet, according to a shock report from the Stroke Association charity, 59% of the 38,000 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland feel the support they have received to aid their recovery is insufficient.

Among the complaints of patients are lack of information (20%), insufficient time or frequency of physiotherapy (48%), and not enough emotional support (28%).

Obviously a stroke - which our interview with a former primary school teacher demonstrates - can occur at any age and its effects are both physical and emotional.

Having survived the initial trauma, survivors need to be fully informed of how much of their former life they can regain and how best to achieve the optimum recovery.

They may well need counselling and/or physiotherapy and speech therapy, and each individual will progress at a different speed and to a different level.

It has been well documented that the NHS in Northern Ireland is facing unprecedented strains and there are many pressure groups who can make convincing arguments to be given greater priority and resources. All of those cannot be met and priorities need to be set.

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A common sense argument would suggest that any therapies which can produce the greatest returns should be offered as often as possible. Stroke survivors would appear to fall into that category of patient in a large number of cases.

Quality of life is a very important outcome and measures which can return it to the level before a stroke should not be withheld for whatever reason on the scale revealed by this survey.

While it must be accepted that the survey is a snapshot of impressions of stroke survivors on the services being offered and are coloured by individual experiences, it is still a worrying picture.

The absence of a devolved administration means that there is no minister to take an overview of the NHS in the province and set in motion proposals to make it more streamlined and efficient.

A minister, in consultation with medical experts, would also be able to set priorities for treatment, and surely stroke survivors would be well up any such list.

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