Call for specialist stroke centre in Edinburgh

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for a specialist centre for stroke victims in Edinburgh to ensure they get treatment which minimises the impact of the illness.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 6:19 pm
Robert Baldock says he was lucky to receive a thrombectomy

NHS Lothian used to provide thrombectomies - which involve using a thin tube to remove blood clots from the brain - on an ad hoc basis for patients from across Scotland but stopped over a year ago.

In January, 25 Scottish stroke consultants publicly called for swift action on establishing a thrombectomy service in Scotland. Over 4000 people signed Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s petition which was handed in the same month.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs a planning framework would be presented later in January, to “provide the basis for the implementation and spread of thrombectomy provision in Scotland”.

But plans have still not been agreed and now campaigners, including East Lothian stroke survivor Robert Baldock and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, have written to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman asking for assurances that funding has been identified for a national thrombectomy service and implementation will begin by the end of this year.

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The letter concludes: “We believe we are at risk of falling further than ever behind other healthcare systems.

“Most importantly though, over the past 12 months around 600 stroke survivors will have missed out on the best possible chance of living without disability, leaving their lives changed forever.

“With leadership from the Scottish Government we can ensure that another 600 lives aren’t destroyed next year.”

Tory health spokesman and Lothian MSP Miles Briggs - who also signed the letter along with Labour’s Monica Lennon, Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone and Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton - said the absence of the treatment meant those who suffered strokes faced being left more disabled than necessary.

He said: “The Scottish Government have the power to name a deadline and confirm the funding needed to make thrombectomy available in Scotland – they need to act now.

“We are falling behind the rest of the UK and other countries when it comes to progress on thrombectomy. We must do better. People’s lives depend upon it.”

Mr Baldock, who suffered a severe stroke in 2017 which left him unable to talk or move easily, said he was lucky to receive a thrombectomy. “Without it things could have been so much worse,” he said.

“The scariest moment after my stroke was waiting to find out if I was able to receive this life-changing operation. It’s time that all patients across Scotland get access to thrombectomy when they need it.”

Katherine Byrne, policy manager at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said there needed to be thrombectomy centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the north of Scotland.

She said: “There is a human cost to the delays in establishing a national thrombectomy service, which could have prevented around 20 people each month in Scotland from being left significantly disabled by their stroke.

“We want to see a clear commitment from the Scottish Government that thrombectomies will be available in Scotland before the end of 2019.”