Ireland’s stroke rate could increase 59% by 2035

Irish Heart Foundation says acute services already less effective and more expensive

Chris Macey from the Irish Heart Foundation said: “We have to act now or the surging stroke rate will not just overwhelm our stroke units.”

Chris Macey from the Irish Heart Foundation said: “We have to act now or the surging stroke rate will not just overwhelm our stroke units.”

 

The Irish Heart Foundation called for an urgent overhaul of how stroke services are resourced after a European study showed the death rate from stroke in Ireland will increase by 84 per cent in less than 20 years.

The Burden of Stroke in Europe report launched in the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday by the Stroke Alliance for Europe also predicts the incidence of stroke in Ireland will increase by 59 per cent by 2035.

Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy Chris Macey said acute stroke services were already becoming less effective and more expensive because stroke units could not cope with the number of strokes Irish people were having.

“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,” said Mr Macey.

“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 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.

“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,” he said.

Clot retrieval

Other measures proven to be cost effective include the development of clot retrieval thrombectomyservices, 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.

Three out of four of the country’s rehabilitation hospitals said they were unable to provide stroke patients with the recommended level of therapy they need, according to a HSE audit carried out last year.

Just one in four has a dedicated stroke unit and 60 per cent lack a stroke specialist to oversee rehabilitation. Less than one in three units has access to psychological services.

In addition, the vast majority of the 26 hospitals that took part in the study have no access to community rehabilitation teams to continue therapy that is essential to assist recovery for patients after they are discharged home.