Ministers Pledge £77m For Stroke Survivors

A new deal for 300,000 disabled survivors of a life-threatening stroke was put in place today. Health ministers handed over £77m from the NHS budget to support the rehabilitation of survivors by local authority social services in England.

Stroke is the third biggest killer, with 50,000 people dying from it each year. It is caused by a blood clot or bleed in the brain. Survivors can be left with lasting damage affecting mobility, sight, communication and cognition.

Every local authority will get a ring-fenced grant worth an average £100,000 over three years to appoint a stroke care coordinator. The aim is to help survivors get access to the rehabilitation services they need to come to terms with disability and, if possible, return to work.

Health minister Ann Keen said: “Stroke survivors often say the full impact of their condition only hits them once they leave hospital. For some, this can feel like a time of abandonment, when it is hard to know how to access help.

“That is why extra investment in social services is so important. We know that long-term support needs to be better coordinated and local authorities have a critical role to play alongside the NHS and the voluntary sector in improving services for the thousands of people living with disabilities as a result of a stroke.”

The scheme is part of a 10-year stroke strategy. Alan Johnson, the health secretary, said in December that the NHS could save nearly 7,000 lives a year by identifying people at risk of stroke and taking preventative action.

He said people suffering a minor stroke should be given an MRI scan within 24 hours if they are at high risk because of age, blood pressure or other factors. Low-risk individuals should have a scan within seven days. This could lead to an 80% reduction in the number of people who go on to have a full stroke.

The public will be urged to look out for three signs that somebody has had a minor stroke: facial weakness (such as an inability to smile), arm weakness and speech problems.

Roger Boyle, the government’s heart tsar, said people recovered from a stroke faster if they could be moved back as soon as possible into their own homes. They needed help to “navigate their way through a morass of benefits” and get access to stroke clubs and other services run by public and voluntary organisations.

The ring-fenced grants would ensure there was a social worker in every local authority with responsibility for tailoring services to the individual needs of every stroke survivor.