As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, improving outcomes for people affected by stroke is a priority for the NHS in England. I know that good progress has been made in the treatment of strokes in recent years, with falling mortality rates for people who have experienced strokes. Statistics from January to March 2023 show that 96.8 per cent of patients arrived at hospital within 72 hours of experiencing symptoms of stroke for the first time.
The National Stroke Service Model was published in May 2021 to advise providers and commissioners on how stroke units can ensure patients receive the most appropriate treatment within one hour of arrival. This will be achieved by delivering the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitments to establish 20 local Integrated Stroke Delivery Networks and meeting targets for treatments, prevention and rehabilitation. NHS England’s National Stroke Programme – developed with the Stroke Association – is supporting local organisations to meet these commitments.
Tackling major conditions that cause ill-health - including cardiovascular diseases such as stroke - provides an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people. That is why a Major Conditions Strategy is being developed and will be published over the next year to outline how outcomes in six major condition areas will be improved, including stroke. Following a recent call for evidence, I understand that the strategy will be published in due course.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, there was a commitment to support the transformation of stroke services into specialist centres, and the roll out of treatment like mechanical thrombectomy. Since 2017/18, over £57.8 million has been invested in thrombectomy. In addition, NHS England allocated £4.6 million of capital spending in 2022/23 towards the expansion of mechanical thrombectomy in England.
I fully recognise that there is more to be done to reduce waiting times for this treatment and to increase the current rate to 10 per cent of patients. The NHS is currently looking to increase the number of operators that can deliver thrombectomy, beyond the 22 centres and two non-neuroscience centres where the treatment is currently available.
The Government is also working with the General Medical Council to extend accredited training in the delivery of mechanical thrombectomy for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke.
I note the issues raised by the Stroke Association in their recent report about the variation in access to 24-7 thrombectomy services across the country, and would value further information about the current situation in our area. In addition, I would be happy to write to our local Integrated Care Board to ask what steps they are taking towards delivering 24-7 access to thrombectomy services.
I share the concern about the increase in ambulance response times, particularly in responding to incidents of stroke. There is evidence that timely access to medical thrombectomy - performed within six hours at the onset of symptoms - can reduce brain damage and prevent or limit long-term disability for stroke patients.
Under current waiting time standards, incidents of stroke are classified as an emergency under Category 2 and should be responded to within 18 minutes. These standards have been established following the findings of the Ambulance Response Programme.
I also know that NHS England is supporting local areas to support video consultations with stroke patients that can be provided from home or in an ambulance, where paramedics can be advised by a hospital-based clinician on the appropriate action for the patient.
Finally, I will try my best to attend the Stroke Association's Parliamentary reception on Wednesday 25 October, as part of World Stroke Day, Parliamentary business permitting.