More rehab 'needed to help stroke survivors'
STROKE victims are being confined to nursing homes instead of regaining independence because of a lack of investment in community rehabilitation, according to the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).
Just €1 in every €80 spent on care for stroke victims is spent on community rehabilitation that could help keep people out of nursing homes.
There are an estimated 50,000 stroke survivors in Ireland and the IHF said it was facing an "appalling" lack of community rehab services.
IHF head of advocacy Chris Masey said that while hospital services for stroke patients had improved dramatically in recent years, community services still lagged far behind.
"The cost of strokes to the State is €567m a year -- €414m of that is spent on nursing home care for people who have had strokes while around €7m is spent on community rehab services that could keep people out of nursing homes.
"There are in excess of 50,000 stroke survivors so you're talking about €144 being spent per person -- that's the equivalent of one physio session a year being paid for when what you need is multiple inputs," he added.
Mr Masey said that even a small increase in the €7m spent on community services could lead to a large reduction in the amount spent on stroke patients in nursing homes.
He said that two years ago there were just six hospitals that had dedicated stroke units -- now there are 26. However, he added that in order to build on the improvements in acute services, and maximise benefits for patients, investment in community supports was needed.
The IHF will today unveil its new patient charter which outlines the treatment stroke patients should expect -- from when the ambulance is called, to hospital care and rehabilitation.
Mr Masey said that suffering a stroke can be the "most catastrophic" event in a person's life and is a very confusing time. The new patient charter is designed to show patients and their families the 'gold standard' of care.
"If people are getting a good service, the charter can put their mind at rest. If not, they can point to this charter and ask 'why am I not getting this service?'," said Mr Masey.
The rights outlined in the charter include being treated as a medical emergency and immediate ambulance service to a hospital that has the expertise to treat stroke patients.
Patients should be seen straight away by a doctor who is an expert in treating stroke patients and all scans and tests should be completed in 24 hours.
The charter also says patients should receive as much rehabilitation as they require, including physiotherapy, occupational and speech and language therapy, clinical psychology and nutritional advice.