Why we must do more for stroke victims

THIS week East Ham MP Stephen Timms demands more help for stroke victims. A YEAR ago, on the initiative of councillor Abdul Shakoor, Newham Stroke Club was set up. Abdul had a stroke eight years ago. I am Club patron. In July I attended its meeting at K

THIS week East Ham MP Stephen Timms demands more help for stroke victims.

A YEAR ago, on the initiative of councillor Abdul Shakoor, Newham Stroke Club was set up.

Abdul had a stroke eight years ago. I am Club patron. In July I attended its meeting at Katherine Road Community Centre on the last Wednesday afternoon of the month.

Over 100,000 people a year have a stroke in England - including over 10,000 who are under 55.


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Stroke is our third biggest killer, and the biggest cause of adult disability. 300,000 people in England have moderate to severe disability as a result of a stroke.

There must be at least 1,000 in Newham. Reflecting a new recognition of its importance, a new stroke strategy was launched at a conference in Harrogate in December 2007, with a ten year plan to improve services.

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The strategy covers reducing the number of strokes, treating people who have had a stroke, and caring for stroke victims after they leave hospital.

If someone has a stroke, they need to get to hospital fast - preferably to a specialist stroke unit, like the very good one we have in Newham. The shorter the delay, the better the chance of a good recovery.

A three-year stroke awareness campaign was launched in February. The idea is that we should all recognise the signs of stroke, and respond quickly if we do. It's called FAST. Everyone at the Katherine Road meeting knew it well already.

F: Face - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye dropped?

A: Arms - can they raise both arms?

S: Speech - can they speak clearly and understand?

If you spot any of the signs, then its

T: Time to call 999.

Specialist stroke units produce the best results. Most stroke victims now spend most of their hospital time in a stroke unit - it used to be only a small proportion. There has already been a sharp reduction in death rates. The strategy included extra NHS funding, for example to support more training for doctors and nurses.

The strategy is also about supporting people who have had a stroke. Many people are left with speech and communication difficulties, such as aphasia. Speech and language therapists play a very important role in care.

The strategy identified local stroke care networks as important for caring for victims. Newham Stroke Club is part of the North East London network.

It does a very good job of helping members get going again after a stroke, and members said how much they enjoyed taking part.

There were about twenty people at the meeting, including some who also attend the Aphasia Group at the Greenhill Centre in Manor Park, of which I am also patron. Specialist support staff from Newham's Integrated Stroke Service (NHS together with the Council) were there too.

Abdul Shakoor had to press for a long time to get the club up and running. It's doing a good job, but its clear we still need to do more to reduce the suffering which strokes cause to victims and their families.

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