Healthcare Commission reportThe NHS is failing stroke patients

06 March 2006

Tens of thousands of stroke patients aren't getting the specialist care and support they need after leaving hospital, a health watchdog has warned.

Each year about 110,000 people in England suffer a stroke, with around half of stroke survivors left dependent on others for everyday activities such as bathing or showering.

The Healthcare Commission says that aftercare is crucial to a stroke patient's ability to recover and their subsequent quality of life.

But it has found that a year after being discharged from hospital, many stroke patients are left without support such as speech therapy and mobility help, and help with any emotional problems.

Attitude change after hospital

A survey of more than 850 stroke patients found there was a major change in care staff attitudes after they'd been discharged from hospital.

The poll revealed that 87 per cent rated their care as excellent, very good or good immediately after discharge - but this fell to 66 per cent a year later. Thirty-four per cent of respondents thought their care was fair, poor or very poor a year or more after leaving hospital.

Fifty-nine per cent of patients felt they hadn't been involved enough in decisions about their care and treatment, and 32 per cent of patients who would have liked information about stroke said they hadn't received any.

'Not enough help'

Twenty-six per cent of those with speech problems said they hadn't had enough help from the NHS a year after leaving hospital, while a similar proportion of people with mobility problems said they hadn't got the help they needed since leaving hospital.

Almost half of those who had emotional problems a year after having a stroke said they hadn't received enough help and 54 per cent of those who said they needed home support didn't receive the help they wanted.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: 'Stroke has a huge impact on hundreds of thousands of lives in this country. It affects not just the people who have had the stroke but those around them. We know that care in hospital for stroke patients is improving. However, the need for top-quality care doesn't end when the patient leaves hospital.

'Stroke sufferers have told us that they need more rehabilitation and support - both emotional and physical - once they return home. It is vitally important that health and social services continue to work closely together to ensure that these individuals get the care and support they need and deserve.'

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: 'Two thirds of the patients surveyed rated their care after leaving hospital as good to excellent, so it is clear that the majority of stroke services are working well.

'As detailed in our white paper on out-of-hospital care, we are working towards better co-ordination between health and social care services and better support for carers. We are already increasing the numbers of staff needed to deliver these improvements - there are now over 2,500 more physiotherapists, over 2000 more occupational therapists, and over 700 more speech and language therapists since 2001.'