Three quarters of stroke research projects in Scotland funded by the Stroke Association have been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, the UK’s leading stroke charity anticipates a shortfall of £1.5 million in its funding programme this year,to resume current research and support vital new projects.
The charity warns of a catastrophic knock on effect for stroke research which could delay access to important new life-changing treatments that allow people to rebuild their lives after stroke. This comes amidst reports of a link between stroke and coronavirus which places greater urgency on research.
There are around 15,000 strokes every year in Scotland and it is a leading cause of adult disability. Despite this, research remains underfunded in comparison to strokes devastating effects and other conditions, such as cancer. This has been the case for many years.
In 2014 The Scottish Government published its Stroke Improvement Plan it
“sets out the priorities and actions to deliver improved prevention, treatment and care for all people in Scotland affected by stroke.”
It laid out 8 priorities
“to improve the experience and clinical outcomes for patients living with stroke across Scotland by supporting the community to adopt a seamless approach to the delivery of care”
2020 Route Map for Stroke Care in Scotland
A National Advisory Committee for Stroke was also established. The minutes of the last meeting are dated 9th of December 2019.
In 2016, the Stroke Association, revealed that just £48 is spent on stroke research per patient, compared to £241 on cancer research. This has now been compounded by the devastation that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the charity’s fundraising capabilities and researchers’ abilities to continue their work.
Over the past 30 years the Stroke Association has played a crucial role in supporting stroke research in Scotland. Last year, the charity invested over £2 million into stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation which is now under threat. Over 35% of the charity’s research funding is dedicated to research in Scotland.
Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at the Stroke Association said:
“Stroke happens in the brain,the control centre for who we are and what we can do.It changes lives in an instant.
“Our research has been at the centre of major breakthroughs that have saved lives and sparked innovation in stroke care and treatment. Our work lay the foundations for one of the most successful public health awareness campaigns in England, the Act FAST campaign, which helps people to recognise the signs and symptoms of stroke.
“We also funded early research into the new emergency stroke treatment, thrombectomy, the manual removal of stroke-causing blood clots. This has seen many patients spared the most devastating effects of stroke.
“But a lack of funding for research is now a ticking-time bomb.If we don’t act now the coronavirus pandemic could set back stroke research for years to come. The research community will struggle to get projects back up and running, but it’s vital for every stroke survivor and their loved ones that we do.”
Findings from the charity’s survey also reveal the broader impacts that the pandemic has had on stroke researchers:
- One in five researchers (22%) will need more funding.
- Two-thirds (66%) of researchers have said they need to make changes to their studies for their projects to continue. This could have added cost implications and change what the researchers had initially set out to achieve.
- One in five (18%) research projects had team members redeployed to front line work NHS working, for example as neurologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Many of the charity’s researchers are working hard to resume their projects during these uncertain times.
Professor Joanna Wardlaw at the University of Edinburgh, is looking into the impacts of stroke on thinking and memory. This research project is funded in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society and the British Heart Foundation.
“Stroke continues to strike with devastating effects. But all of a sudden, due to coronavirus, we were forced to stop inviting new stroke patients to take part in our study.
“However, we responded quickly to change our plans and we’re now also recording information about coronavirus exposure and illness in stroke patients recruited into our study.
“This is incredibly important at this time and will help us to understand more about many aspects of the effect of the virus on stroke patients.
“We’ve been talking to stroke survivors across Scotland and the UK who are feeling the emotional impact of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. We’ve seen a big increase in anxiety and low mood and it’s harder than ever to access support at this time. It’s only with funding by charities that we can carry out research to improve treatment for people affected by stroke.”
Dr Ahmed adds:
“Stroke continues to strike every five minutes and as risk of stroke increases with age, it remains one of the greatest health challenges in our society. People can rebuild their lives after stroke but there is still much we don’t know. Research is crucial to find out why people are struggling, and new ways to overcome the challenges that millions of people affected by stroke face every day.
“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt by stroke survivors and researchers for years to come. If you can, please help raise vital funds so that we can find new ways to help prevent and treat stroke and help more stroke survivors to rebuild their lives.”
The Stroke Association fund critical research, provide specialist support and campaign to make sure people affected by stroke get the care and support they need to rebuild their lives.
To find out more visit Stroke Research
to donate: Donate to Scotland