Clinicians urge Scottish government to reverse £7 million thrombectomy funding cut

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Health charities and National Health Service (NHS) clinicians have united in a call for the Scottish government to reverse a cut to the funding of stroke thrombectomy treatments.

More than 150 stroke clinicians have backed a call from charities Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS), and the UK Stroke Association, for the reinstatement of £7 million to the national thrombectomy service funding in Scotland.

An open letter to the cabinet secretary for Health and Social Care ahead of next week’s Scottish government budget describes the 50% funding cut and recruitment freeze as a “mistake”.

The letter states that the resulting savings—which amount to less than 0.1% of Scotland’s total health budget—will create far greater costs, with Scottish patients who miss out on this “extraordinarily effective” medical treatment ending up needing longer hospital stays, community rehab and social care services, according to a CHSS media release.

Stroke physician Vera Cvoro (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK) stated: “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.”

The Scottish government had previously committed to rolling out a national thrombectomy service, which would see around 800 stroke patients receive the procedure each year, the media release notes. Such a service is expected to save the health and social care system up to £47,000 per patient in the first five years—with a resulting total saving of £37.6 million to the NHS.

As such, CHSS and the Stroke Association are jointly calling for the Scottish government’s commitment to continuing to fund the service and recruit the staff necessary for a national rollout.

Jane-Claire Judson, CHSS chief executive, said: “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.”

John Watson, associate director Scotland at the Stroke Association, added: “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.

“That is why we, alongside CHSS and clinicians at the coal face, are calling on the Scottish government to reinstate its funding for a national thrombectomy service. The financial savings of having this procedure are undeniably positive, but the potential outcome without it could have devastating consequences for stroke patients, including severe disability or death.”

CHSS is also urging people to join its Thrombectomy for All campaign by signing a petition, which can be found here.


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