‘No-one is holding their hand through the journey’: Anger over care of Norfolk stroke patients

Andrew Foulkes at The Stroke Association art class at the King's Lynn Arts Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Andrew Foulkes at The Stroke Association art class at the King's Lynn Arts Centre. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Stroke survivors in Norfolk are often being left with little or no help to cope with their debilitating condition because of a lack of community support services in the county, a charity has warned.

Sara Betsworth, regional head of operations for the Stroke Association in the East of England, said it was crucial 'for the right services to be available at the right time in the right place' when people suffered a stroke.

Yet even though she said West Norfolk was considered a gold standard of the level of after-care and support that should be available, it was in stark contrast to the rest of the county.

Although there was an information and advice service for people in Great Yarmouth, no support services existed in any other part of the county, she said.

That meant as soon as survivors left hospital, they often 'get dumped at the end of it,' Mrs Betsworth added.

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That leaves sufferers and their families to manage potentially severe physical disabilities and speech problems, as well as the emotional impact of having a stroke – completely on their own.

'No-one is holding their hand through that journey,' said Mrs Betsworth.

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'Some people come out of hospital and don't know what has happened to them. No-one has even explained what a stroke is. It is quite a scary time for those people.

'We think those needs are not being met at the moment.'

A spokesman for the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in South Norfolk, which is responsible for buying healthcare services, said stroke services for that part of the county were delivered from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

The spokesman added that patients were dealt with comprehensively at the NNUH.

However, Mrs Betsworth said: 'It is recognised that what is available will be different depending on where you live.' The ideal, she said, was that each district in Norfolk would have a communication support group, where people joined a 10-week course to get assistance with speech and language.

Each area should also have an information and advice service as well as a stroke prevention service, which works with survivors to reduce their risk of having further strokes by improving their overall health.

West Norfolk is the only borough to have all of three of those services. Mrs Betsworth added that she thought government cutbacks had caused a debate as to which public sector organisations should fund stroke care.

Asked whether she believed provision of stroke services had fallen through the gap as a result, Mrs Betsworth said: 'I think that's a fair assessment.'

She called on CCGs to take the lead and commission services to put that support in place in the community.

What is your view about the level of support for stroke survivors in the community? Contact EDP reporter Andrew Papworth by calling 01379 651153, or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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