UK set for stroke epidemic

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The number of strokes across the UK is likely to rise by almost half (44%) in the next 20 years, according to a new report published today (Thursday, May 11) by the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and the Stroke Association.

The Burden of Stroke in Europe is a comprehensive analysis of 35 European countries, carried out by King’s College London, and is published to mark European Stroke Awareness Day and the UK’s national awareness month: Make May Purple for Stroke.

Researchers are warning that throughout Europe, the number of strokes could rise dramatically by 2035 due to our ageing population.

Currently in the UK there are 1.2 million people living with the effects of stroke, and there are over 100,000 strokes every year.

The report findings also reveal that by 2035;

the number of new strokes across Europe is likely to increase by a third (34%), and in the UK, this figure could jump by nearly half (44%)

the number of stroke survivors living in the UK is expected to rise by a third (32%).

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “The number of stroke survivors is set to rise by almost one million people, and that number in the UK is expected to increase by over 30%: that is one of the largest increases in Europe. These are shocking figures, and if they are borne out, health services will face a formidable challenge in tackling a stroke epidemic.

“There are alarming variations in delivering even the basic levels of treatment and care for stroke patients, such as access to stroke units and thrombolysis, not just across Europe, but across the UK. Without reorganisation, stroke patients are less likely to receive the treatment and care which will save their lives and reduce disability. This could ultimately lead to greater costs on their Governments and economies.”

As part of its recommendations, SAFE is calling for each EU member state to have a national stroke strategy, actively supported and sponsored by Government that covers the whole stroke pathway. This should include awareness, prevention, treatment and long-term support.

Ms Bouverie continued: “While it is good news that many more people are now surviving a stroke, we also know that their needs are not currently being met after they’ve received initial life-saving treatment.”

Andrea Cail, Director Scotland of the Stroke Association, said: “Scotland has a Stroke Improvement plan but we have some way to go to meet SAFE’s recommendations. We would like to see greater investment from The Scottish Government to ensure stroke rehabilitation and long term support is properly measured and delivered.”

The Burden of Stroke in Europe report’s researchers caution that accurate comparisons between countries are extremely difficult, and advise that their predictions for the future have a significant level of uncertainty. Professor Christopher McKevitt, an author of the report from King’s College London, said: “Our report shows that your chances of getting the best quality care when you first have a stroke vary widely across Europe, and within individual European states. It also shows that we know very little about what care stroke survivors get after discharge from hospital.

“As the population ages, more people will have a stroke, and more will survive with long-term disabilities. We need to ensure better access to the best acute stroke care for all; and we need to focus efforts on improving support for stroke survivors in the months and years after they are sent home from hospital.”

For more information about the Burden of Stroke in Europe, please visit www.strokeeurope.eu. For more information about the Stroke Association’s manifesto, visit stroke.org.uk/GE17