THE UK’s leading stroke charity is warning that research that could help people to rebuild their lives faces a long-term threat due to coronavirus pandemic
Almost three quarters of stroke research projects funded by the Stroke Association have been suspended because of the pandemic.
The charity anticipates a shortfall of £1.5 million in its funding programme this year, and is preparing for 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.
This comes amidst reports of a link between stroke and coronavirus which places greater urgency on research.
Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at the Stroke Association, said: “Our research has been at the centre of major breakthroughs that have saved lives and sparked innovation in stroke care and treatment. Our work laid 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. Patients who otherwise could have lost the ability to walk and talk still can.
“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.”
Dr Lucy Dipper, at City University, London is in the final stages of testing a new treatment for stroke survivors with communication difficulties.
She said: “We couldn’t continue testing our new treatment face-to-face. But we couldn’t just stop. The stroke survivors taking part in this research have a communication difficulty and could miss out on essential treatment. They may be at risk of not receiving enough treatment and be even more vulnerable to isolation at this time.
“The project team decided to move the treatment online. This hugely disrupted our plans and we needed extra funding to extend the time we have to involve more people in a different way than we had planned. We’re extremely passionate about this project and that’s why we leapt so quickly to make changes.
“The whole team just want it to continue. We’re putting our all into it, heart and soul. It hasn’t been an easy time but we’re really grateful to the Stroke Association for their continued support. It’s only with funding by the charity that we can do this research that can change how people affected by stroke are treated for communication difficulties that are all too common.”
- Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and is a leading cause of adult disability.
- Despite this, research remains underfunded in comparison to strokes’ devastating effects and other conditions, such as cancer.
- In 2016, the Stroke Association revealed that just £48 is spent on stroke research per patient, compared to £241 on cancer research.