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Pilot thrombectomy service launches for Lothian patients

A new thrombectomy service is to be piloted in Lothian as Scotland takes one step closer to a National Thrombectomy Service.

Stroke campaigners welcomed news that NHS Lothian has launched a pilot of a life changing stroke procedure. The pilot Thrombectomy scheme, which will operate from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, will begin welcoming patients from Monday 6th September 2021.

Stroke survivor Robert Baldock, 55 from East Lothian, who has been campaigning tirelessly with charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland for patients to have nationwide access to the procedure called Thrombectomy, said that the move was a big first step that will make a difference to people’s lives.

Robert knows first-hand how important Thrombectomies are for stroke patients in Scotland – he was one of only 13 people who received one after a serious stroke in 2017.  Thrombectomy was his only chance of survival. Robert’s stroke has left him with significant communication difficulties and mobility issues.

Thrombectomy is a highly specialised procedure that involves physically removing the blood clot in the brain which has caused a severe stroke. It’s not suitable for everyone who has a stroke, but it can help reduce disability and dependency. In 2017, the life-changing treatment, which was being offered in rare circumstances, was withdrawn from Scottish hospitals due to capacity concerns.

Robert and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland set up the ‘Bring Back Thrombectomy’ campaign, four years ago, which has been supported by over 4,000 people. The campaign managed to gain support from a number of politicians, including Ministers with Scottish Government committing to introduce a National Thrombectomy Service. The first major breakthrough came in November 2020 when NHS Tayside set up a pilot Thrombectomy service in the North of Scotland.

A funded partnership with the Scottish Government has enabled Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland to roll out a training programme across the country called STAT+. The programme delivers vital training to nurses who may have the opportunity in their role to be involved in the life saving delivery of Thrombectomy. They have delivered the training in many Health Boards including Tayside and Lothian, helping to get the pilots successfully set-up and running.

Speaking about his experience Robert said: "All I can remember of that morning is the ambulance crew trying to move me down the narrow stairs of the cottage with great difficulty. I couldn’t move or speak. A scan revealed a large clot had caused my stroke. Normally you would have a clot busting drug to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. However, I was told this treatment wasn’t going to be effective for me.

"My friend Sharon and others who were with me were told to prepare for the worst. Things didn’t look good at all.

"Looking back the scariest moment was waiting to find out if I was going to be able to receive a life-saving thrombectomy and the stark possibility of not surviving if not. Since my stroke everything has changed but I survived, and I have learnt to appreciate and savour what I have.

"It’s fantastic to see the pilot service up and running in Lothian. We haven’t got the full national service we need yet, but this is a big step that will be life-changing for every person that receives a thrombectomy through this service."

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

"Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Scottish Government remains committed to the roll-out of a national thrombectomy service by 2023 and has already invested more than £17 million in making this happen. I am delighted we are taking another significant step towards this objective, with the launch of a pilot service in the East of Scotland.

"Although I’m glad to say the number of people dying from stroke in Scotland has fallen by more than a third over the last decade, we want to continue striving for better. And that means ensuring people have access to the best possible treatments."

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Chief Executive Jane-Claire Judson said:

"This is a welcome step forward for stroke care in Scotland and one step closer to a National Thrombectomy Service. However, we need to see this approach adopted across the rest of the country.

"At least 600 people would benefit from a national service and by having this treatment, stroke patients in Scotland will have the best possible chance of living without disability or dependency after stroke.

"It’s thanks to inspirational campaigners like Robert that we are seeing progress towards a National Thrombectomy Service. We will continue to campaign together until everyone in Scotland has access to this life-changing stroke treatment."

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