Parliamentary Debates

Stroke Survivors (Support)

Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP):  I am grateful to Margaret Mitchell for bringing the debate to the chamber. As the convener of the cross-party group on heart disease and stroke, I am very much aware of the story that Margaret Mitchell has presented to the Parliament this evening.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland provides the co-secretariat for the cross-party group. We often hear stories about survivors at the cross-party group—they all have their own individual stories.

A lot has happened, and a lot of good work is going on. The cross-party group was instrumental in developing the stroke charter, which was first proposed by Helen Eadie. When Helen died, I undertook to take the charter forward with a sub-group. The charter was supported by the then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil, before he moved over to his present portfolio.

When the charter was being developed, it was more to do with acknowledging the need for the intervention after a person has a stroke to be quick. That important rehabilitation needs to happen at the time and location that the person requires. Quick intervention could prevent the person’s stroke becoming that bit worse.

Margaret Mitchell gave us one or two stories, and those are the sorts of story that we have heard too often at the cross-party group. People can be wrongly assessed for a blue badge, for instance, because the full impact of their stroke is not recognised during their assessment. That is not the fault of the assessment process; it is a matter of not understanding the full impact that a stroke may have on an individual and on their ability to carry out tasks that they had undertaken before.

In my previous work at North East Sensory Services, I came across many people with a visual impairment as a result of stroke. The haemianopia that can occur is initially very difficult for patients, and certainly for their families and carers, but with the right support, understanding and instruction, a person can learn to live with that degree of sight loss as they understand it and are able to adjust to it. Too often, however, we do not get the right information or the right support at the time of need. That is frustrating not just for patients or sufferers—or survivors, as we say—but for their families and friends.

Margaret Mitchell is absolutely right. Stroke can have a devastating impact not just on a person’s mental health but on their ability to go back to employment, to do simple tasks or perhaps just to go out on their own and come back feeling refreshed from a walk. Quite often, the walk that they used to enjoy for leisure is now arduous and tiring; they might get to the point where they do not wish to do it any more.

The peer support that Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland provides is invaluable and immeasurable. Knowing that someone else has survived, has adjusted and has moved on is inspirational for many others. We need to be aware, however, that not just charities such as Chest Heart & Stroke but all of us have a responsibility, including general practitioners and clinicians.

Once again, I thank Margaret Mitchell for bringing the debate to the chamber. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Public Health is indeed listening.


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