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Buzz News Post

Hundreds have not sought treatment for mini strokes during the pandemic

The number of people in Scotland seeking medical help after a "mini stroke" has dropped by a third during the pandemic, leaving hundreds of Scots vulnerable to a future serious stroke.

The recently released Scottish Stroke Improvement Programme 2021 report shows a large reduction in patients presenting to services with a TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack), also known as a “mini stroke”.

The number has reduced by a third, falling from 4,243 patients in 2019 to 2,840 patients in 2020. The causes are likely to include people’s unwillingness during the pandemic to attend hospital, and challenges in seeing a GP.

Permanent crisis

"Our NHS and social care staff have been heroic during the pandemic. And this report reveals just how much they had to deal with – but it is also a stark reminder of how much needs done to help stroke survivors and services recover," explains Jane-Claire Judson, CEO of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Stroke services were already struggling before Covid so action is needed to prevent the NHS falling into a state of permanent crisis management

"This report shows that the impact of Covid goes way beyond the virus itself. A 33% drop in the number of people presenting to services following a “mini stroke” is worrying because it suggests that people may not have looked for help or that they may have struggled to get support.

"This then increases their chances of developing something even more serious in the future – which risks putting further serious pressures on the NHS. Stroke services were already struggling before Covid so action is needed to prevent the NHS falling into a state of permanent crisis management – which is just not sustainable."

We're calling for the Scottish Government’s NHS Recovery Plan to commit to coordinated action with charities to reduce NHS pressures and avoid this crisis.

Warning signs

TIAs can be a warning sign of a more serious stroke, and people who have experienced TIAs are at significant risk of major stroke if they don’t get the right treatment.

10% of TIA patients are at risk of having a stroke within 90 days, but 80% of those strokes are preventable.

Despite the reduction in people seeking help, the future long-term risk of stroke after TIA remains. It is concerning that there are a significant number of people who have not received necessary treatment, or support to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of a serious stroke.

This could leave the NHS and social care facing increased demand for support and services, putting more pressure on services unless charities are involved now in planning for NHS’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

"The Scottish Government’s NHS Recovery Plan needs to emphasise the importance of supporting people to make that transition from hospital to living well at home. We need to see better integration of third sector services like our Hospital to Home services and the NHS," adds Jane-Claire Judson.

"With a more joined up approach we can meet the changing needs in the community and help reduce pressures on the NHS to allow services the opportunity to recover."

From hospital to home

The Scottish Government need to make a clear commitment to fully integrate charity services like Hospital to Home with NHS services to keep people well at home and reduce NHS pressures as part of its NHS Recovery Plan.

Without this, people like Barry are at risk of not getting the support they need to recover after a mini stroke.

barry TIA mini stroke

Barry Morgan, 73, of Largs, Ayrshire, suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) in May 2020, and spent two weeks in Inverclyde Royal Infirmary.

His speech and reading were affected, and he had problems with movement on his right-hand side. He received a limited amount of therapy while still in hospital, and pandemic restrictions meant he missed out on face-to-face support once at home.

Barry credits his recovery to the telephone and online support he received from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. He had weekly online sessions with the local Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland community support coordinator and a speech therapist from NHS Ayrshire and Arran to improve his speech and movement.

Then Barry then joined a new online support group for stroke patients, set up by Chest Heart  & Stroke Scotland, that has led to even greater improvement in his speech.

Barry says: “I got advice and exercises on reading and writing, which was exactly what I needed. The online group took a while to get off the ground, but we persevered because it’s worth it.

"The support group has become a lifeline. Everyone who has had a stroke needs support that can help with their recovery and make them feel they are not alone.”

For more information about our Hospital to Home service, please visit: chss.org.uk/coronavirus/hospital-to-home