Thrombectomy is a stroke treatment that can significantly reduce disability and save lives. However, many people who could have it miss out because of where they live or when they have their stroke.
Last summer, Stroke News readers joined our Saving Brains campaign by signing our open letter to the UK Government, urging them to make 24/7 thrombectomy available to everyone.
In October 2022, campaigner and stroke survivor, Phil Woodford, helped deliver your signatures to Downing Street. He shares his experiences and what's next for the campaign:
'I'm 52 now, but I was 45 when I had a TIA and a stroke. I was thrombolysed (given clot-busting medication) but was unable to have a thrombectomy because it was a Sunday and the service wasn't provided over the weekend.
My life changed overnight. It took six months' rehabilitation in hospital and then another four months till I could return to work.
My stroke has caused musculoskeletal problems, permanent pain and weight gain because I'm less mobile. I walk with a limp and my left arm has a mind of its own.
But it's the psychological effect that I find really hard. My confidence levels dropped dramatically. Physical adjustments at work can be made with a little bit of money. But trying to explain to people why I cry every day is almost impossible.
Unfortunately, when back in work, I was bullied and discriminated against. I found this really hard and it spurred me on to use my experience to help others.
I got involved in the Saving Brains campaign to improve access to thrombectomy because I didn't want anyone else missing out.
A thrombectomy mechanically removes blood clots in the brain. For many, this procedure prevents life-long disability. This has a huge knock-on effect - savings in rehab, care and emotional savings for the individual and family post-stroke.
But access to this life-changing treatment is poor. There isn't a 24/7 service across the country and we don't have enough doctors trained to do it.
In October, I was proud to be asked to help deliver 9,000 signatures in the Saving Brains open letter to Number 10, Downing Street.
The political changes to the UK Government have affected the campaign, but I think we've capitalised on it. At Rishi Sunak's first Prime Minister's Questions, we saw Members of Parliament wearing Stroke Association badges, which was brilliant. We have to continue the campaign, never mind changes in government. It's not just saving a life - with thrombectomy people can return to work and to their hobbies, which positively impacts society.
Since we launched the campaign in July 2022, two thrombectomy services have committed to 24/7 access. The UK Government have also announced they'll be launching a stroke workforce plan and a new thrombectomy training credential, which we recommended in our Saving Brains report for England. This is fantastic, it will help so many people.
Health inequalities are unnecessary. The treatment you receive shouldn't be determined by where you live and what time you have a stroke. I hope that the workforce plan uses our recommendations and governments across the UK provide what's needed to improve access to thrombectomy.
We're continuing the campaign this year and I will get involved with every opportunity that arises. I encourage you to write to your MP and get them to ask why this life-changing treatment is postcode and time dependent. We can use our lived experience to ensure stroke survivors have the best treatment available.'
You can help us to drive improvements in stroke care. Get involved by joining our Campaigns Network.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the spring 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.