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Scotland fights back against cuts to life saving stroke treatment

“The current resource crisis should lead to thrombectomy being prioritised, not cut.”

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This year, the Stroke Association introduced the ‘Saving Brains’ campaign, in order to spread awareness and campaign to politicians on the importance of thrombectomy. 

Despite these efforts, there is set to be a 50 per cent funding cut and recruitment freeze announced for thrombectomy services in the Scottish Government budget.

The Stroke Association and Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) along with over 150 stroke clinicians have pleaded to the Scottish Government to reverse their decision, heralding their decision as a mistake.

The Scottish Government believe they will save £7 million from making these cuts.

An open letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care states that the savings made by their proposed cut, only amounts to less than 0.1 per cent of Scotland’s total health.

The letter warns that the cut will create greater costs, when those in Scotland that need thrombectomy miss out, as they will likely need to stay in hospital for longer.

Previously, the Scottish Government has committed to its national thrombectomy service, with the current number of patients admitted for thrombectomy standing at an average of 800 per year.

Thrombectomy is predicted to save the health and social care system around £47,000 per patient in the first five years, with a total saving of £37.6 million.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of CHSS, says: “CHSS and the Stroke Association are united in our plea to the Scottish Government to stand by its commitment to a national thrombectomy service.

“It is unthinkable that the Scottish Government will deny Scots a treatment we know will make a huge difference to their lives for the sake of a small short-term budget saving.

“Hundreds of Scots who have a stroke each year should be able to trust they will get the best possible medical attention and chance of making a full recovery.”

Associate director at the Stroke Association, John Watson says: “Thrombectomy saves brains, money and lives.

“It can change the course of recovery from stroke in an instant, and is one of the most effective medical interventions ever developed.

“We understand the financial pressure the Government is under, but to cut a service that improves patients’ lives while saving money would be a serious mistake.

“The current resource crisis should lead to thrombectomy being prioritised, not cut.”

Former BBC Scotland worker, Ruth Hector, was only 30 when she suffered a stroke, whilst speaking to the Scottish Herald she called the proposed cuts “bonkers.”

She continued on to say: “You ‘save £7 million’, but really you’re not saving any money at all because there will be all these people who have strokes without a thrombectomy who end up needing occupational therapy, and physiotherapy, and rehabilitation.

“It costs so much more in the longer term to have a stroke without the thrombectomy.”

The Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf has claimed that appeals to Westminster for additional funding has been made, he says: “financial situation facing the Scottish Government is the most challenging since devolution.

“Despite this, thrombectomy expenditure of £7.9m is up by almost 20% on the last financial year and we have managed to increase funding available to health boards this year, despite the financial pressure.

“We’ve invested more than £16m delivering a thrombectomy service and we’ll continue to work with boards and charities like CHSS and the Stroke Association, who I met last week, to further develop this.”

Dr Vera Cvoro, consultant geriatrician and stroke physician at the University of Edinburgh, highlights the importance of thrombectomy: “Thrombectomy is the single most effective treatment we have for stroke. Many patients that come to our hospitals with a stroke could benefit from this treatment that prevents disability.

“This can mean being able to walk again, talk again and even going back to work. We have the expertise to deliver such treatment and it should be available to all people living in Scotland.”

SR Times spoke with Dr Sanjeev Nayak, who was partly responsible for the first 24/7 thrombectomy service in the UK, you can find our podcast episode with him here.

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