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News > Urgent action needed to stop Covid-19 creating a stroke care crisis in Scotland

Urgent action needed to stop Covid-19 creating a stroke care crisis in Scotland

A new NHS report has revealed that the stroke care target which aims to help reduce the risk of death and improve people’s ability to get back home is still being missed. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic could cause a stroke care crisis in Scotland.

As Scotland’s largest stroke care charity, we’re calling for the Scottish Government to set out a long-term package of support to avoid the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic creating a stroke care crisis.

The call comes as the latest report from the NHS’s Scottish Stroke Improvement Programme reveals that key targets for accessing vital stroke care were still being significantly missed in 2019. It is feared that with the added pressures of Covid-19 on the NHS and wider community services, stroke patients’ survival and recovery could be further put at risk unless urgent action is taken.

Targets for delivery of what’s known as “The Stroke Care Bundle” aim to reduce the risk of death and increase the likelihood of people returning home to recover from their stroke. The Bundle is to ensure quick admission to a stroke unit as well as fast access to vital interventions like a brain scan, swallow screen and administering of aspirin.

The National Report from the Scottish Stroke Improvement Programme shows:

  • Stroke Care Bundle compliance was 64% across Scotland, an improvement from 59% in 2018.  However, overall compliance still remains short of the 80% standard.
  • No Health Board in Scotland met the 80% Stroke Care Bundle compliance target.
  • 4 Health Boards improved their performance from last year – NHS Dumfries and Galloway; NHS Tayside; NHS Ayrshire and Arran; NHS Highland.
  • The rest saw no statistically significant change.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in Scotland and the most common cause of disability. The impact of Covid-19 and further spikes could put significant strain on NHS resources and see even more demand for our Hospital to Home services – which has already doubled.

We are calling for a package of support from the Scottish Government that sets out a joined-up approach between NHS, Social Care services and charities to ease pressures on stroke services and staff – so that the quality of stroke care can continue to improve.  

Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland provides vital support to stroke patients as they return home from hospital and back into the community. Working with NHS clinicians, they equip people with the tools and support they need to live well at home and in the community thus reducing hospital readmissions and pressures on the NHS.

Commenting on the report and wider implications from the pandemic, Chief Executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, Jane-Claire Judson, said:

“While the report shows that some progress is being made in some areas, key stroke care targets were still being missed before the Covid-19 pandemic. This report is a warning that we can’t let progress towards meeting reasonable targets and delivery of better stroke care stall or go backwards because of the virus.

“We know that coronavirus is putting the NHS under considerable pressure. We are also being told that the virus could be with us for some time. We need the Scottish Government to come forward with a package of measures that helps stroke care continue to improve and helps people live well at home.

“The Covid-19 crisis must not develop into a wider stroke care crisis. We have an opportunity to do things better to give people the best possible recovery and reduce future pressures on the NHS.”

Sandra Cockburn stroke care crisis

Sandra Cockburn, 74, from Dunfermline, suffered a stroke in early March just before lockdown. When Sandra returned home from hospital she felt forgotten about. Then she met Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Stroke Nurse, Rhona Martin. Rhona supported Sandra to live well at home. She said:

“Having lived through a stroke and knowing how tough recovery is, I know how important it is for people to get the right care in hospital and at home. It can make all the difference to our lives.

“I know that everyone is under real pressure with this virus, but I hope people can work together to make sure everyone who has a stroke gets all the care they desperately need. We’re all being told that the virus might be around for a while and people will keep having strokes so I hope they can find ways to give people what they need.   

“I was supposed to have support when I left hospital and have a monitor fitted to my heart but because of the virus, all that was put aside. Everything was thrown up in the air and I sort of felt neglected and a bit forgotten.

“But luckily that’s when I met Rhona from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland – when I was really feeling at my lowest.

“In all my life, I have never come across a more compassionate and caring person and I really mean that sincerely. It’s strange how whenever I was feeling a bit low, the phone would ring, and it would be Rhona on the other end. I’ve never met Rhona, but I love her to bits – it’s like having a wee guardian angel there whenever I need her, and she has helped me immensely. She is so knowledgeable and just knowing I can go to her for information and advice really puts my mind at ease.”

To find out more about our campaigning work to make sure everyone in Scotland can live life to the full, please visit:

People are leaving hospital feeling scared and alone. You can change that.

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