Britain is the worst country in western Europe for treating stroke victims, a report published in this week's British Medical Journal has claimed.
Despite spending as much, if not more, as leading countries, more Brits die or become disabled after suffering a stroke, according to Professor Hugh Markus of St George's University of London medical school.
The article identified several potential reasons for Britain's failure, including poor follow-up care and a focus on spending money on hospital overheads at the expense of finding better treatments.
Professor Markus says we need a shift in attitude to stroke rehabilitation, treating it as a condition that needs emergency action such as brain scans and clot-busting thrombolytic drugs.
All UK hospitals have scanners, but many struggle to scan patients within 24 hours. This is much too late for the drugs, which require a scan within three hours.
Health minister Dawn Primarolo responded to the BMJ article by acknowledging that there is a need to improve the numbers of people given the thrombolytic drugs.
However she said stroke rehabilitation has "progressed rapidly" in the last ten years.
"Numbers of stroke deaths are falling, and advancing medical understanding gives every prospect for a real revolution in stroke treatment over the next few years," she added.
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