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New national strategy aims to make ‘big stroke history’

Dr Ronan Collins, Consultant Physician in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine and HSE National Clinical Lead for Stroke, said the new strategy would serve as an “update” to the existing document and set “realistic” goals.

“The problem with many previous health strategies may be that they often strive to be too comprehensive and then are difficult to implement, as the ideal may not be realistically achievable, or when very comprehensive prioritisation of implementation steps can be problematic,” said Dr Collins.

“To achieve ‘making big stroke history’ requires both a realistic and funded strategy for the next five years that is ‘politically legible’, with a few high-impact but deliverable actions in several areas.”

The HSE National Stroke Programme is supporting four expert subgroups in the areas of acute stroke management (acute care and cure); stroke rehabilitation (restoration to living); stroke prevention; and research and education, Dr Collins said.

It is hoped this process will deliver a “funded, realistic and achievable five-year plan in early 2019 that will be approved and committed to,” he added.

Since its inception in 2010, the Programme has made significant improvements in stroke care but more work is required to enhance services and staffing.

The Stroke Alliance for Europe recently published the King’s College London report on the Burden of Stroke in Europe, which predicted an increase of 58 per cent in the number of strokes in Ireland over the next 10 years.

“Clearly, this is a significant challenge but it may be yet modifiable through an immediate public health education campaign around smoking, alcohol and exercise, which needs to be hard-hitting visually and age-specific,” said Dr Collins.

“Over 65 per cent of our stroke patients have hypertension and over 35 per cent have atrial fibrillation and better detection of both at an early stage with intervention is key to ‘making big stroke history’.”

Dr Collins called for reinstatement of the FAST media campaign aimed at improving public awareness of stroke. He said awareness and the importance of getting to hospital in time had “fallen back to pre-campaign levels, particularly in more socially-disadvantaged areas”.

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