Thousands of stroke patients in England are set to benefit from a “game-changing” new treatment that can significantly reduce the risk of long-term disability.
NHS England is streaming millions of pounds into widening the provision of mechanical thrombectomy in hospitals across the country, with the aim of ultimately being able to offer the treatment to around 8,000 people a year.
The procedure, which involves the use of tiny surgical tools to down a blood clot into smaller pieces so they can be sucked out of the blood vessel, is being commissioned for patients with certain types of acute ischaemic stroke, where a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked, often leading to long-term disability.
If used within the first six hours of symptoms beginning to show, alongside other specialist treatment and care, medical thrombectomy has been shown in clinical trials to significantly improve survival and quality of life by restoring blood flow and therefore limiting brain damage.
According to NHS England, it also has the potential and also save millions of pounds in long term health and social care costs; stroke is currently estimated to cost the NHS around £3 billion per year, with additional cost to the economy of a further £4 billion in lost productivity, disability and informal care.
“This major national upgrade to stroke services puts the NHS at the leading edge of stroke care internationally. It’s another practical example of the NHS quietly expanding innovative modern care that will really benefit patients, but which tends to be invisible in the public debate about the NHS,” said NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.
“Thrombectomy is a real game changer which can save lives and reduce the chances of someone being severely disabled after a stroke,” noted Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association.
“This decision by NHS England could give thousands of critically ill stroke patients an increased chance of making a better recovery. It could mean more stroke survivors living independently in their own homes, returning to work and taking control of their lives again as a result. And this will undoubtedly lower NHS and social care costs for stroke.
“However, thrombectomy is a complicated procedure. Its delivery across England will need significant changes to NHS stroke services, as well as an increase in the number of trained professionals who can carry out the procedure so that as many people as possible can benefit from this powerful new treatment.”
NHS England said work is already underway to assess the readiness of each of the 24 neuroscience centres across the country which are set to introduce the service. The treatment is expected to be phased in later this year, with an estimated 1,000 patients set to benefit across in the first year of expanded use.