Published: Wednesday 17 December 2014
Yesterday, the Stroke Association visited the Houses of Parliament to speak to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Stroke Research.
Our topic was a new report presenting the latest evidence for governmental and charity spending on stroke research in the UK, which was launched at the UK Stroke Forum, on 3 December, 2014.
Our first speaker was Dr Dale Webb, Director of Research & Information at the Stroke Association. He shared the main findings of the report, and encouraged the parliamentarians present to consider how much more funding must be dedicated to stroke research to prepare us for the increasing burden of stroke in the decades to come.
We also heard from Pippa Tyrrell, Professor of Stroke at the University of Manchester. She shared what the current state of play is in the field of stroke research.
It was then the turn of our service users, the Smejka family, to share how stroke research had impacted their lives. Paula Smejka shared how her husband John had his stroke in 2011. It left him with aphasia and weakness on one side of his body. Although she was initially confident he would fully recover his ability to speak, she was dismayed when after six months of therapy the therapists told her he would have to live with his remaining disability. (article continues below image)
However, Paula saw a ray of hope when she visited the TalkStroke forum on the Stroke Association’s website, finding a study that was looking for volunteers with aphasia. Crucially for Paula, the study asked for stroke survivors who had their stroke more than six months in the past. That was the beginning of a long journey for John, Paula and their family who have found both a meaning and hope in participating in stroke research studies, mainly to do with John’s aphasia.
Lastly, we heard a response to our speakers from the Rt. Hon. George Freeman MP, who was recently appointed Minister for Life Sciences.
He thanked the Stroke Association for presenting the findings of the report to the APPG, and described how it fit within the approach he is taking. A lot of his work is insisting patient voices get heard at top table. He said that charities and patients drive change in the system, and that getting our voices heard raises the profile of stroke. He also gave an enormous thanks to the Smejkas.
This APPG meeting set out the lack of funding into stroke research in the UK, the case for investing more into the field and building capacity, and ultimately why it’s so necessary - stroke research, even in its developmental stages can transform the life of a stroke survivor and their family.