Irish Heart (May 11th) called for an urgent overhaul of how stroke services are resourced after a new European study showed that the death rate from stroke in Ireland will increase by 84% in less than 20 years.
The Burden of Stroke in Europe report launched in the European Parliament in Brussels today by the Stroke Alliance for Europe also predicts that the incidence of stroke in Ireland will increase by 59% by 2035.
Irish Heart head of advocacy, Chris Macey said: “We already know that acute stroke services in this country are already becoming less effective and more expensive because stroke units cannot cope with the number of strokes we have now.
“We have to act now or the surging stroke rate will not just overwhelm our stroke units, there will also be a huge spill over into all acute services that will affect all patients using emergency services.
“We don’t need extra money to fix things – we just need to invest in treatment and care that has been proved to save lives and money so we don’t have to send so many patients unnecessarily to expensive nursing home care.”
The latest statistics show that long-term care costs alone rose by €17.3 million in 2015 due to an increase in nursing home discharges – which could have paid for up to 1.6 million hours of homecare. But over the four preceding years, the National Stroke Programme was responsible for reducing nursing home costs by around €120 million.
“If the HSE spent €15 million a year on providing the 200 extra therapists required to staff stroke units properly, these cost reductions would be restored and stroke services could gear up to deal with the accelerating upsurge of strokes facing our hospital system.”
Other measures proven to be cost effective include the development of clot retrieval thrombectomy
services, which have been deemed cost effective in a HIQA health technology assessment; the roll out of Early Supported Discharge programmes whereby stroke patients receive vital therapy at home rather than in hospital; and increasing access to homecare for stroke survivors.
“These measures are largely deliverable within the funding restrictions imposed on the health services. Many are considered to be basic standards of care in other countries. Together they can significantly reduce preventable death and disability without any increase in overall costs,” said Mr Macey.