New Stroke Association report to “shine a light” on stroke care’s biggest blind spots

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stroke association prioritiesThe Stroke Association has announced the top areas of research that need to be prioritised to improve stroke care. The announcement of these priorities—which have been set by stroke survivors, carers and professionals—marks the first UK-wide project to map priorities for stroke research spanning the entire stroke care pathway, according to a press release from the leading UK charity.

The top 10 priorities were established in the Stroke Priority Setting Partnership (Stroke PSP) using the James Lind Alliance process. The charity is launching its findings in a new report entitled “Shaping stroke research to rebuild lives: The Stroke Priority Setting Partnership results for investment”. The report is available to researchers, funders and health and social care decision-makers—and calls for significantly increased investment in stroke research to support the developments in treatment and care that will make the biggest difference to the lives of people affected by stroke. It also intends to “close the gap” between research funding for stroke and other conditions.

“The Stroke PSP provides robust guidance to researchers and funders on the areas of greatest need,” said Shirley Thomas, associate professor of Rehabilitation Psychology at the University of Nottingham (Nottingham, UK) and Steering Group member. “It is vital to direct funds to these areas so researchers can continue to work with people affected and professionals in stroke, and generate research evidence. This research can inform improvements in treatment and care that will bring the most benefit to people affected by stroke.  I look forward to using the Stroke PSP results in my research to increase evidence in these areas.”

The Stroke Association’s report sets the agenda for stroke research by identifying the areas that most urgently need investment. Two lists of 10 priority areas, ranked in order of importance, cover the stroke care pathway: the first in stroke prevention and acute care, and the second in rehabilitation and long-term care. According to the charity’s release, the top priorities include identifying the best interventions to stop stroke happening for the first time—also known as primary prevention—and understanding the impact of mental and emotional or psychological problems, and how to reduce them.

Stroke survivors, carers for stroke survivors and professionals from organisations including the British Association of Stroke Physicians, the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Neurology, Royal College of General Practitioners, and others, came together to decide on the Stroke PSP protocol and gave their input at all key stages. The priority areas in the two lists revealed in the report were checked against existing evidence and sorted from over 4,000 questions about stroke from more than 1,400 participants (37% stroke survivors, 14% carers of stroke survivors, and 44% stroke professionals), according to the Stroke Association.

Juliet Bouverie OBE, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said: “One in five people will have a stroke in their lifetime. Stroke happens in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. Every stroke is unique because the brain is so complex and stroke can happen in any part of it. This means there are as many different impacts of stroke as there are stroke survivors, posing a huge challenge for stroke treatment and research.

“The Stroke PSP is a significant step towards improving stroke care by establishing where to focus investment for the greatest benefit. We have shone a light on blind spots where a lack of investment in research is holding people back from rebuilding their lives after stroke. We must close the funding gap between stroke and other conditions.”

The charity highlighted the “stark” figures that show that investing £10 million into stroke cognitive rehabilitation research could save £725 million over the course of 20 years—a saving of more than 71 times the amount invested.  Stroke costs NHS and social care £8.6 billion per year, so significant investment in stroke research and resulting interventions will save both lives and money, the release also states.


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