Hundreds of stroke sufferers may be dying needlessly because of a postcode lottery for specialist care, new figures revealed today.
More than a third of those struck down do not receive treatment on a stroke unit where their prospects are considerably better, a national audit found.
Research, funded by the Healthcare Commission, found considerable disparities in the quality of care offered across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In particular, it found that patients in Wales are more likely to die, or if they survive suffer higher levels of disability, than elsewhere.
In Wales, 28 per cent of patients are treated in a stroke unit, compared with an average across the three countries of 62 per cent.
Meanwhile, 64 per cent of patients in England and 73 per cent of patients in Northern Ireland can expect to visit a specialist unit.
Joe Korner of the Stroke Association, said the government must ensure that the quality of stroke care does not come down to chance.
‘Stroke units can halve your chance of dying from a stroke, so it is a scandal that getting treated on one is a matter of luck or your postcode.
‘The Stroke Association is campaigning to ensure that the stroke care you get is not down to chance. Radical improvements in stroke care are within our reach.
‘The government, with a new stroke strategy in development, has the chance to do for stroke what has been achieved for heart disease in the last ten years.
‘It is vital that stroke gets the priority and investment needed – without investment hundreds will die needlessly.’
Every year over 130,000 people in the UK have a stroke – a brain injury caused by a sudden interruption in blood flow, often caused by a blood clot blockage or sudden bleeding.
These latest results came from the 2006 National Sentinel Audit for Stroke, carried out by the Royal College of Physicians.
It found patients managed on stroke units have better results than those looked after in other settings.
The Royal College of Physicians said that patients in stroke units are more likely to have their swallowing checked, to start aspirin within 48 hours, to be assessed by therapists on time and to have a home visit.
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