Warning to stroke patients over missed appointments

STROKE patients are putting their health at risk by not attending their hospital appointments, NHS bosses have warned.

Too many patients are not understanding the urgency of their appointments and are delaying them or not attending at all.

NHS South West Essex is now reminding patients of the importance of attending hospital sessions to ensure their health is monitored and their risk of suffering another stroke is minimised.

Joe Dillon, from NHS South West Essex, says: “It has emerged in recent months that some patients who have suffered a stroke are putting off their hospital appointments or simply not going. It appears to be a particular problem with those who have suffered a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, which has the same signs as a stroke but gets better in 24 hours.

“From anecdotal evidence, it seems that people who have got over the initial shock of having a TIA are then taking it for granted that they are okay.

“What they are not appreciating is that a TIA can be an early warning system. If you suffer a TIA you are at risk of suffering another more serious stroke, which can be debilitating and can even claim your life.

“That is why it is absolutely vital that stroke patients go to their hospital appointments. Clinicians will be able to monitor your condition, treat you and advise you on the steps you can take to avoid another stroke. They will also ensure you are safe to drive. Crucially, you must not drive if you have suffered a TIA or stroke until you have seen the stroke team – so by delaying or missing your appointments you could be putting your own and others’ safety at risk as well.”

In June, 68 people who had suffered a TIA attended their appointment at Basildon University Hospital but ten of these had refused the first appointment offered to them.

Dr Gautam Chajed, GP lead for stroke at NHS South West Essex, says: “Like all medical emergencies, time plays a crucial role when you have a stroke – you have a better chance of recovering from a stroke if you seek medical help immediately and receive timely follow up care.

“We have an acute stroke unit and a rehabilitation ward in south west Essex, which means that stroke patients have the benefit of dedicated services offering excellent specialist care – they shouldn’t waste this.

“By not going or delaying your appointment, you are not giving yourself and the expert clinicians a chance to treat you. You are putting yourself at risk of another stroke and further damage to the brain, which could leave you with a major long term disability.”

Stroke is an acute brain attack and happens when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed, depriving the brain of oxygen. It is the leading cause of severe adult disability in the UK and the third most common cause of death after cancer and coronary heart disease.

It is important that people act fast on the signs of a stroke – if those experiencing a suspected stroke get the medical attention they need quickly, they have a better chance of recovery.

The Act F.A.S.T. campaign uses a simple checklist to help everyone recognise the tell-tale signs of stroke and advises of the action to take. The main symptoms can be remembered easily with the initials F.A.S.T.

Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech – is their speech slurred?
Time – it’s time to call 999 if you see any of these signs.

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