Phone support service for newly discharged stroke patients

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   28th Apr 2020

Our message to every stroke survivor in the country is that if you need us, we are here for you.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital.

As a result of the Covid-19 emergency, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of community based supports for stroke patients due to illness and staff who usually work in these areas being redeployed to help tackle the pandemic. Many stroke patients are also being discharged earlier than usual from hospital once they are clinically fit to return home in an effort to protect them from contracting the coronavirus.

The phone service – which became operational last week (Thursday April 23rd) – involves trained and experienced Irish Heart Foundation staff and volunteers making regular calls to stroke survivors who have been referred by acute hospital stroke teams to check on their health and wellbeing. They will also provide information and advice about recovery from stroke and ensure that patients’ practical needs are being met enabling stroke survivors to stay safe.

“Leaving the care of an expert team of doctors, nurses and therapists to return home after suffering a brain injury is likely to be traumatic at any time ,"

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, The Irish Heart Foundation

Initially the calls are being made by the Irish Heart Foundation’s team of stroke support coordinators – who are already supporting hundreds of members of the charity’s stroke groups across the country. But as volumes increase, volunteers including stroke survivors and carers will also become involved. The callers are backed up by the Irish Heart Foundation’s support line nurses, and a traffic light system is in place to escalate calls when necessary to stroke nurses or the emergency services.

“Leaving the care of an expert team of doctors, nurses and therapists to return home after suffering a brain injury is likely to be traumatic at any time. To do so without help to transition at a time of national health crisis and in many cases earlier than would normally be the case is a lot to ask of stroke patients,” said Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation.

“We know from supporting stroke survivors in our groups around the country the extreme impact that COVID-related anxiety and isolation is having on people who are well settled back in the community and we’re naturally eager step into the breach with the help of the HSE’s National Stroke Programme to provide this vital service to some of Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens.”

"The support to patients offered by this initiative from the Irish Heart Foundation is greatly welcomed by the National Stroke Programme,”

Professor Ronan Collins, National Clinical lead for Stroke, HSE

Professor Ronan Collins, the HSE’s National Clinical lead for Stroke said, “Returning to life after stroke can be challenging at the best of times and may seem more difficult to recovering patients in the current COVID crisis. With the added pressure on health services created by the crisis, our normal hospital and community supports for stroke patients may be reduced through staff redeployment and illness. The support to patients offered by this initiative from the Irish Heart Foundation is greatly welcomed by the National Stroke Programme.”

It’s estimated that around 7,500 people are hospitalised after a stroke in Ireland each year – the equivalent of 21 strokes a day nationwide and the majority of people will be discharged home after spending an average of around two weeks in hospital.

“This means that every day the numbers needing support are growing,” added Mr Macey. “However, while this service was primarily established to assist newly discharged stroke patients, we have developed the capacity to support any stroke survivor, regardless of how long they have been living with the condition. Our message to every stroke survivor in the country is that if you need us, we are here for you.”

In addition to the phone check-in service that actively makes calls to stroke patients, the Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available to answer questions any member of the public may have on any aspect of heart disease and stroke. Nurses can be contacted by calling 01 668 5001 or emailing support@irishheart.ie

The Irish Heart Foundation support group network is already supporting more than 3,000 people. This includes 26 stroke and heart failure support groups around the country that are supporting members through regular phone calls and WhatsApp groups, along with groups for specific cardiac conditions such as cardiomyopathy and Long QT Syndrome. It also incorporates closed Life After Stroke and Heart Support Facebook groups that are providing advice, interaction and peer support, along with Facebook live sessions on everything from mindfulness to good nutrition.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

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