Local clinicians come together to reduce number of strokes in Lancashire and South Cumbria

Clinicians from across Lancashire and South Cumbria are coming together to try to reduce the number of people in the area that suffer strokes, and improve the services for those that do go on to have a stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the UK – almost two thirds of stroke survivors leave hospital with a disability. It is the fourth highest cause of mortality in the UK and the second highest globally.

Dr David Walker, Medical Director, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), said: “People in Lancashire and South Cumbria are more likely to suffer a stroke than in other areas of the country and the local health and care system is determined to change this. A stroke can have devastating consequences for those that suffer one, and along with our Bay Health and Care Partners, we have made a commitment to make tackling stroke in our communities one of our top priorities.”

Across the UK there are around 100,000 strokes a year. In 2015, there were 605 strokes in the Morecambe Bay with the total healthcare and social care costs for this local group of patients being £13.4 million 2015/16 - rising to £27.4 million over five years.

Bay Health and Care Partners, which is made up of 10 health and care organisations in Cumbria and North Lancashire, has committed to using a ‘population health’ approach to tackle stroke in Morecambe Bay.

Dr Walker, continued: “A population health approach aims to improve health outcomes for the whole population and address inequalities in health. Using this approach, we will target our resources based on the best available evidence to improve the health of the people of Morecambe Bay.

“In addition to improving care for people who have suffered strokes, we will be increasing our efforts in stroke prevention through better diagnosis and management of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and irregular heart rhythms. We have set ourselves an ambitious goal of reducing the number of people who die from stroke by 50% in just two years.”

Dr David Wrigley, GP at Ash Trees Surgery in Carnforth, said: “A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Strokes are a medical emergency and urgent treatment is essential. Stroke causes twice as many deaths a year in women than breast cancer and twice as many deaths a year in men than prostate and testicular cancer combined."

Dr James Barker, Consultant - Stroke/Care of Elderly, UHMBT, said: “There are two main types of stroke - ischaemic strokes and haemorrhagic strokes. They affect the brain in different ways and can have different causes. 

“As you get older, the arteries can naturally narrow but certain things can dangerously accelerate the process, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. You can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke by leading a healthy lifestyle - eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, reducing alcohol intake, and not smoking. Making small changes to your lifestyle like these really can make a difference.”

There are a lot of myths surrounding stroke such as it only affects elderly people this is incorrect; around a quarter of strokes happen in people of working age. There are over 400 childhood strokes a year in the UK - around a quarter of these are in children under a year old, half are in children aged 1-10 and a quarter are in children aged 11 and over. The average age of stroke has also decreased in recent years.

Dr Walker concluded: “A stroke is a largely preventable illness, and we believe we need to work in partnership with our local populations if we were going to make a significant difference as we’ve seen other areas of the country do already by taking a similar approach.”

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance. The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word F.A.S.T.:

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

More information on stroke can be found on the NHS Choices website.