Ulster stroke patients receive the best of care
I refer to the article in the Belfast Telegraph of August 24, Stroke Victims 'denied vital recovery drug' and the accompanying editorial.
There are some inaccuracies in the claims made in this report. Other 'clot busting drugs' for stroke patients are available and are used in Northern Ireland.
Like many powerful drugs, there are serious side effects and patients have to be carefully assessed before the drugs are used.
This includes a complete diagnosis with a brain scan in hospital.
All of this has to be done within three hours of the onset of stroke, a considerable challenge in view of the frequent vague and non-specific symptoms at the onset of a stroke.
Even in the best conditions worldwide, only a small minority of stroke patients benefit from this treatment.
There is an implication in the claims made in the article that stroke patients in Northern Ireland are disadvantaged compared to those elsewhere in the UK. The Royal College of Physicians of London undertakes an annual audit of the care of stroke patients and this has shown that, in Northern Ireland, a higher proportion of patients with stroke are admitted to specialised stroke units than is the case in England, Scotland or Wales.
Care in stroke units saves lives and improves recovery.
There is much to be done to improve the outcome of this common and serious illness.
Research is needed to find better ways of preventing and treating stroke and we must do better at translating the results of research into practice.
Researchers and health care teams are active in both areas in Northern Ireland.
Suggesting that stroke patients in Northern Ireland are relatively disadvantaged is a disservice to the patients and their relatives, and to the dedicated health care teams who strive so hard to improve their condition.
Robert W Stout, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Queen's University, Belfast