Saving brains: a campaign for improved thrombectomy access

Dr Sanjeev Nayak performing a thrombectomy

Thrombectomy saves brains and changes lives. So why are so many people missing out?

Thrombectomy is one of the most effective medical interventions ever discovered. But most people in the UK who need this treatment don’t get it.  

That's why the Stroke Association is sending a letter to the government. We're asking them to help improve the thrombectomy service, using the recommendations in our Saving Brains report. 

You can sign the letter here. 

Why can’t people access thrombectomy services? 

Thrombectomy must happen as soon as possible after a stroke, and is most effective in the first few hours. This is because for every minute stroke goes untreated, 1.9 million brain cells die.  

And that's really where the problems with the service start. 

Thrombectomy provision is subject to availability.  

In some areas of England, there’s no thrombectomy service available at the weekend or outside of the working day.  

Just a quarter (25%) of thrombectomy centres operate 24/7 services. Almost half (42%) operate Monday to Friday during office hours. And in other areas, long ambulance delays mean people miss the time window for this treatment to work.  

It's a postcode lottery. 

We fully commend the brilliant efforts of stroke doctors, nurses, paramedics and their teams. But a lack of staff, funding and resources means that where you live affects whether you can have a thrombectomy. 

In England, only just over a quarter of people who need a thrombectomy currently receive it. This means nearly three quarters of those who need thrombectomy miss out completely.  

In 2020-21, thrombectomy rates were 2.2% in England, 0.7% in Wales and 4.1% in Northern Ireland. We want those rates up to 10% across the UK. 

If you are in England, sign our open letter to the government here. Find out more about our campaign in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reports about thrombectomy here

Two stories, two different outcomes 

Below are the stories of two stroke survivors. One who had a thrombectomy and another who didn't. 

“It was so quick and so effective, it was miraculous”

Karen Craven, stroke survivor

Karen Craven had a stroke in 2015. Her son had found her collapsed on the floor, she was blind in one eye and unable to move her left side at all after. A CT scan revealed Karen had multiple blood clots on her brain. 

But thankfully Karen was able to have a thrombectomy. In fact, she was one of the first people in the UK to have the life changing thrombectomy procedure.  

It was so effective that Karen could see again within hours. She walked out of hospital four days later and was back at work within weeks. Nurses and doctors dubbed Karen a “walking miracle”.  

Now Karen wants to make sure everyone who is eligible can have the procedure. No matter where they are or what day or time it is. 

“I was really quite disappointed when I was told that I was suitable for the treatment, but that people weren’t available at the weekend”

Phil Woodford, stroke survivor

Phil Woodford had his stroke over five years ago. It left him paralysed down his right hand side and unable to walk or talk.  

He was suitable for the thrombectomy treatment and well within the timeframe. But Phil was told the procedure wasn’t available. That's because the specialists weren’t available at the weekend.  

Phil spent over four months in hospital and was confined to a wheelchair for many months more. 

Thrombectomy stroke treatment saves brains, saves money and changes lives. But most people who need this treatment don’t get it. If you agree that Saving Brains is vital, please support our campaign. 

Sign our open letter to the government here. 

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