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Friday, April 10, 2009

Stroke services

I spent a fascinating and highly educational hour yesterday morning at a support group for stroke victims run by the Stroke Association. It was a sobering experience as the reality of underfunded NHS services was made clear to me.

Since devolution 80,000 people in Wales have had a stroke. For 30,000 of those victims the experience was fatal. Stroke is the major cause of disability in Wales. It kills three times as many women as breast cancer.Yet proper education about the symptoms and prompt action could avert many of those strokes. Equally, if a victim recieves a scan within three hours of the stroke, followed by thrombolysis and supportive hyperacute care then not only will the survival rate increase markedly but many patients will also escape years of therapy and rehabilitation to recover their full range of faculties.

I understand that my local NHS Trust has put in a bid for £3.3 million to bring its own stroke services up to scratch but there is only £2.5 million available for the whole of Wales. Scotland has recently invested £50 million in its services and is way ahead of the other nations and regions in prevention and treatment services.

The work being carried out at the support centre I visited is outstanding. Many victims there are starting to live a more normal life as a result of the therapy and support they get there. But more investment is needed in Speech and Language Therapists and other therapy services if we are to make a real difference.

I am not sure though if the NHS will support one unusual part of the centre's programme. On Fridays a small party from the support group go to the local firing range where some of them practise with automatic weapons. I decided to give that one a miss.
Is this an acceptable price to pay for devolution?
It is not devolution that is the problem but the political priorities of those exercising power. Remember that prior to devolution health was the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Wales and was separate from England. It is likely that this underinvestment has its roots pre-1999.
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