The Scottish Government has set out a vision for the first stroke patients to be treated by a national thrombectomy service before the end of next year.
A mechanical thrombectomy training programme, already underway in Tayside, is to receive £600,000 as part of plans to see the service rolled out across the country with the first patients being treated before the end of 2020.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman describes the commitment to a national service, revealed in the newly published integrated workforce plan, as a “vital step” in the planning and delivery of a comprehensive stroke service for Scotland.
A relatively new type of stroke treatment, mechanical thrombectomy is an emergency treatment which can prevent significant life-changing disability in selected patients with severe strokes.
Recent statistics show people in Scotland are more likely to have and to die from a stroke than those living elsewhere in the UK.
The third most common cause of death and the most common cause of severe physical disability amongst adults in Scotland, it is estimated that around 15,000 people have a stroke each year. Hospital care for these patients accounts for 7% of all NHS beds and 5% of the entire NHS budget.
In July of this year Age Scotland called upon the government and NHS boards to urgently improve stroke care standards that had fallen short for almost a third of patients.
Around the same time, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) expressed disappointment “a key treatment – mechanical thrombectomy – is still not available in Scotland”.
In October, NHS Tayside and the University of Dundee hosted stroke thrombectomy interventional neuroradiologist Professor Iris Grunwald and neurologist Professor Silke Walter as part of a review of the training and research potential of Ninewells medical school to become a recognised leading centre of excellence in thrombectomy.
Commenting on the announcement, an RCPE spokesperson said:
“This College has been vocal in its support for comprehensive stroke services, including thrombectomy, in Scotland. We therefore welcome plans to create a new Scottish thrombectomy service, and we would urge that resources are made available nationally, to ensure there are no avoidable delays in its implementation.
“…Currently, there is inequality of provision of this service between Scotland and other countries worldwide – and even between England and Scotland.
“We would hope that the new national thrombectomy service will begin to address this disparity. It’s vital that Scottish stroke patients are given access to a full complement of services.”