Strides seen in stroke care but more services needed

A new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) finds that while stroke care is improving, stroke still poses a significant burden on patients and their families, the health system, and on aged care services.

The report, How we manage stroke in Australia, shows that the number of stroke care units in public hospitals increased from 35 to 50 between 1999 and 2004, and that hospitals with these units were more likely to have rapid triage and assessment of patients with acute stroke.

Nevertheless, in 2003 stroke caused around 9,000 deaths, which equates to almost 7% of all deaths in Australia.

Report author Susana Senes of the AIHW's Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Unit said there were also 346,700 stroke survivors in Australia in 2003-people who had experienced a stroke at some time in their lives.

'Of these, around 282,600 had a disability, and in 146,400 of them, the disability was caused by their stroke.

'Because stroke is mainly experienced by older Australians, it is likely that the ageing of the Australian population will drive an increase in the number of strokes in the future unless the incidence rate falls by 2-3% or more a year,' she said.

The report shows that most stroke survivors live at home, and that at least 90% of stroke survivors who needed assistance with activities such as household chores, mobility and transport were receiving it.

Many got some type of formal assistance but most stroke survivors had informal carers providing most of the assistance.

More than half of those primary carers spent at least 40 hours each week in their caring role. For about one in four, their caring responsibilities reduced their income, and only a minority of primary carers accessed respite care services.

In 2004, just 23% of relevant public hospitals in Australia provided organised stroke services - quite low compared with around 80% for Sweden and Norway.

The report notes that there is no national information on many aspects of stroke, such as treatment, rehabilitation or formal care services received, which could assist in future planning.

15 February 2006

Further information: Ms Susana Senes, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1171, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.