A stroke charity has echoed a doctor’s concerns that Scotland lags behind England in providing access to a “game changing” treatment that catches potentially deadly clots.
Dr Maria Corretge, a consultant in geriatric medicine at NHS Lothian, said thrombectomy was now available “across most of England” but was “not fully established” north of the border.
In an interview with the Herald on Sunday she said the procedure had “great outcomes” and went as far as to say that she always advised people in the Borders to “go south” if they suffer a stroke.
Dr Corretge, who is part of an NHS campaign group called EveryDoctor, said Scotland’s aim to roll out treatment had been slowed by shortages of radiologists.
She blamed a decision by Nicola Sturgeon to cut places in medical schools when she was health minster, describing this as “very poor workforce planning.”
The Scottish Government said in response that it was committed to continued improvement in stroke care but acknowledged that some areas had “proven challenging”.
The Stroke Association said it welcomed progress made in establishing three centres that offer the treatment but said Scotland “has a long way to go”.
Ischaemic strokes can often be treated using injections of a medicine called alteplase, which dissolves blood clots and restores blood flow to the brain.
A small number of severe ischaemic strokes can be treated by an emergency procedure called a thrombectomy.
It involves inserting a long tube into an artery in the leg, which is then fed through the body to reach the blood clot in the brain. The blood clot is then captured in a mesh and pulled out.
The removal of the clot allows blood flow to resume and oxygen to reach the brain, halting the damaging effects of the stroke.
In Scotland, three pilot services have been introduced in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow.
It is hoped that they will pave the way to a national service able to treat 600 to 800 patients a year.
NHS England started commissioning the service nationally in 2017 with St George’s University Hospital becoming the first hospital in the UK to have a fully staffed 24/7 service.
There are currently 24 tertiary neuroscience centres in the UK that can provide the treatment.
Angela MacLeod, Communications Officer for the Stroke Association in Scotland said: “Thrombectomy is a fantastic medical treatment that can show great outcomes for patients and, because it reduces ongoing support needs, means significant savings to health and social care budgets down the line
“We welcome the progress that has been made towards the Scottish Government commitment to a 24/7 thrombectomy service for everyone in Scotland, but there is a long way to go and they need to sustain the good work and investment until we get there.”
A report released by the charity last month found that NHS England missed its original target of making thrombectomy available to all patients for whom it could provide benefit, only delivering the procedure to 28% of all suitable patients by December 2021.
It found that just 25% of thrombectomy-capable centres operate 24/7 services.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:“We recognise that there are areas within stroke care that have proven particularly challenging and we are committed to continued improvement.
“We expect health boards to identify aspects of their stroke services which do not meet the Scottish Standards and to work to improve standards of care locally.
“We are also committed to introducing a high quality and clinically safe thrombectomy service in Scotland and we are making important progress against this commitment.
“Patients are already benefitting from the provision of thrombectomy at hub centres in NHS Tayside, NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.”