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Strokes care 'is a lottery' HEALTH: Midlands has some of the worst services in UK.

Byline: By Alison Dayani

MIDLAND stroke victims are suffering at the hands of a postcode lottery with some of the worst treatment in the country, new figures reveal today.

Only 38 per cent of West Midland stroke victims receive a vital brain scan to confirm their diagnosis within 24 hours.

That's the second lowest figure in the UK and much lower than 58 per cent of patients in London.

But this drops even lower at weekends when just 14 per cent of local patients get a scan, less than half the number of people getting scanned in London or East Midlands. And although referral to a stroke unit dramatically improves a patient's chance of survival, this only happens to 68 per cent of Midland patients. The shock finding from the 2006 National Sentinel Audit for Stroke even shows the West Midlands has just ONE stroke unit that is fully equipped to help sufferers.

Chris Bennett, Midland regional manager for the Stroke Association, said failure by hospitals to provide brain scans was putting lives at risk. "Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer and if it doesn't kill it can leave patients paralysed, incontinent or unable to talk," said Mr Bennett.

"Yet despite clear clinical evidence that access to immediate brain scanning and direct admission to a stroke unit saves lives and reduces disability, current access to these life-saving facilities is down to luck and postcode.

"For too long stroke has been a low priority for Government and health providers. We are looking for the National Stroke Strategy to change this which gives every survivor access to an adequately staffed unit."

Every year, more than 5,300 people in the West Midlands suffer a stroke.

A stroke is when an interruption of blood supply to the brain, due to a blood clot or haemorrhaging, which causes brain damage.

Symptoms include facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems.

The Stroke Helpline provides information on stroke from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 0845 3033 100.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 5, 2007
Words:334
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