In the last spending review, we successfully secured additional funding in primary care trust allocations and central funding to implement the National Stroke Strategy, aimed at improving stroke services across the country. Further funding for implementation of the strategy is a matter for the next spending review and it is not possible at this stage to comment on its conclusions.
NHS 2010-2015: from good to great, a copy of which has been placed in the Library, makes clear that the department is committed to ensuring that all patients get the best treatment and one of these commitments is to further improve access to a dedicated stroke unit for stroke patients. Stroke, therefore, continues to be a high priority for the National Health Service as demonstrated by its tier 1 status in the vital signs in the NHS Operating Framework for 2010-11. This requires that 80 per cent of patients spend 90 per cent or more of their time on a stroke unit by 2011. Primary care trusts' performance in improving stroke services will be measured against this. The Stroke Improvement Programme provides support to the NHS in improving stroke services. Over the next year, it will work with the NHS to go further and faster in achieving improvements in stroke services, including ensuring the timely admission of stroke patients to a dedicated stroke unit, that the strategy seeks to achieve.
The stroke strategy set out a 10-year plan to improve and deliver world-class stroke services from prevention through to life long support. It encourages the effective assessment and management of vascular risk factors, and improvements in the information and advice given to people on lifestyle so that they have a better understanding of how to reduce their own risk of having a stroke. The NHS Health Check programme is a systematic programme for everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 to assess their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease and will support people to reduce or manage their risk through individually tailored advice. Phased implementation of the programme began in April 2009. It has the potential to prevent at least 1,600 heart attacks and strokes each year when fully implemented.
The Stroke Improvement Programme, which provides support to the National Health Service in improving stroke services, is also working on prevention projects. For example, it is working with the Heart Improvement Programme, which similarly provides support to the NHS to improve heart services, and has developed commissioning guidance for stroke prevention in primary care, focusing on the role of atrial fibrillation. We estimate that earlier detection and better management of atrial fibrillation could prevent 4,500 strokes per year.
More generally, the department has run a series of campaigns to raise both public and professional awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle in reducing the risk of a number of diseases, including stroke. These include Change4Life; Smokefree marketing to motivate people to stop smoking and direct them to NHS information and support; and a campaign on the unseen damage that drinking can cause to long-term health where the link between alcohol and stroke was one of its key messages.