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Stroke patients missing out on life-saving thrombectomy treatment in post code lottery

I was interested to read an article by The Guardian and report by the Stroke Association regarding the restrictions and inconsistencies in mechanical thrombectomy treatment for stroke patients across the UK.

Thrombectomy is an innovative surgical procedure using a catheter and stent to remove blood clots in the brain following a stroke. The treatment can also be used to treat a pulmonary embolism.

The article and report raises awareness of the benefits of this treatment and points out that thousands of patients are missing out on this life saving treatment.

Thousands missing out on post code lottery treatment

Whilst thrombectomy is not suitable for everyone who has suffered a stroke - around 10 per cent of patients are suitable candidates - it can be life-changing for those that are suitable candidates as it can significantly improve recovery chances and reduce the likelihood of severe disability and death, especially if provided within six hours of the onset of a stroke.

The Guardian article references the recent Saving Brains report by the Stroke Association which states in 2020/21 nearly 80 per cent (5,889) of patients in England who needed a thrombectomy missed out. Ten per cent of stroke patients are suitable for thrombectomy but only 2.8 per cent of patients are currently being treated with thrombectomy.

Thrombectomy services are unfortunately not available across the UK at all hospitals and many hospitals have restricted services meaning thrombectomy surgery is only available at limited times in the week and often not at all at weekend. 

This means the benefits of this treatment is a “post code lottery”. Someone in the UK suffers a stroke every five minutes and it can happen to anyone at any time. 

However, lifesaving thrombectomy is only available to those who suffer a stroke at the right time and place where thrombectomy is available. A stroke patient in one part of the UK could have a significantly better recovery than another simply by where they live and the timing of their stroke.

Human and financial cost of not having treatment

A client of mine was found at home following a stroke and transferred to a hospital that did not have thrombectomy services. He was deemed suitable for thrombectomy and was told he would be transferred following scanning, but sadly there was a delay at A&E in his scans being carried out and by that point he had missed the cut off point to be transferred to another hospital where thrombectomy services were available for him. 

Sadly he died three months following his stroke which may have been avoided had thrombectomy services been available more widely.

The Stroke Association report also highlights that rolling out thrombectomy services fully could save the UK government £73 million a year by reducing demand for rehabilitation and community support services. The report states that each thrombectomy patient saves the NHS £47,000 over five years.

Call to support UK wide thrombectomy

The Stroke Association is calling for full thrombectomy services across the UK and has prepared an open letter to the Government which I would urge you to sign if you agree that this treatment is vital - 

Surely rolling out 24 hour thrombectomy services UK wide is essential so everyone has the best possible chance to get to the right place, at the right time for the best treatment available?

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and their families following issues in care at our dedicated medical negligence section.

Tens of thousands of stroke patients in England are being denied access to a “miracle treatment” that pulls them back from “near death”, putting lives at risk and leaving many unnecessarily disabled, a report warns.

More than 47,000 patients will miss out on mechanical thrombectomy on the NHS over the next seven years unless NHS England and ministers take immediate action, according to the new study by the Stroke Association.”