The charity Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) has voiced support for the Scottish government’s decision to reinstate “vital” funding of thrombectomy services across the country, stating that a “whirlwind two-week campaign” centred around its Thrombectomy for All petition was a key contributing factor.
“We welcome that the Scottish government has listened to stroke survivors, charities and health professionals, and restored funding for developing a national thrombectomy service,” said CHSS chief executive Jane-Claire Judson. “This cost-effective and life-changing procedure can make a huge difference to stroke survivors, ensuring many more are able to walk again, talk again and live their lives to the full.
“We now need to see work on setting up a 24/7 national service restart as a matter of urgency, and a timetable for delivery, so that every stroke patient who needs it gets the best chance of living life to the full.”
At the beginning of December last year, the Scottish government announced plans to cut £7 million from the funding of a national thrombectomy service—an endeavour it had previously committed to rolling out in an effort to make mechanical thrombectomy treatments accessible to hundreds of stroke patients each year.
Shortly after, an open letter to the UK cabinet secretary for Health and Social Care—penned by several health charities, including CHSS and the UK Stroke Association, and backed by more than 150 stroke clinicians—described this 50% funding cut and an accompanying recruitment freeze as a “mistake”.
“Thrombectomy is the single most effective treatment we have for stroke,” said stroke physician Vera Cvoro (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK) at the time. “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.”
CHSS and the Stroke Association jointly called for the Scottish government’s commitment to continue funding thrombectomy services and recruit the staff necessary for a national rollout, citing the cost-effectiveness of these procedures in addition to their proven clinical benefits.
And, after a “tireless campaign” by stroke survivors, healthcare professionals, and CHSS staff and volunteers, the Scottish government announced on 16 December that it would reinstate this £7 million in thrombectomy funding.
“Thanks to you, we gathered over 2,500 signatures for our Thrombectomy for All petition in under two weeks, highlighting the fierce support for this life-changing surgery that reduces the odds of disability from stroke,” a CHSS press release states.
The announcement came as part of a “record” £19 billion annual budget for health and social care, with the Scottish government pledging more than £1.2 billion for mental health services; over £2 billion to deliver and improve primary healthcare services in the community; and £160 million to address public health emergencies, and reduce the avoidable harms associated with drugs and alcohol.
The other major element of this announcement included “fully restoring the budget for life-saving procedures, such as thrombectomies […] despite the need to make a short-term reduction to tackle the inflationary pressures faced by the whole UK”.
“The stroke community in Scotland was united in alarm over recent cuts to the thrombectomy programme, and we therefore welcome this renewed funding of a lifesaving and cost-saving service,” said John Watson, associate director of the Stroke Association in Scotland. “The cabinet secretary has now given us his assurance that the commitment to a national, round-the-clock thrombectomy service remains.
“We look forward to continuing this positive discussion, with the aim of a clear timetable for delivering one of the most effective and cost-saving procedures available to us.”