Evidence from cities such as Manchester and London is very clear that centralising stroke treatment in hyper-acute stroke units considerably improves outcomes, with patients having access to a specialist at all times and immediate access to imaging and investigative facilities, giving them the best chances in terms of outcome.
My 82-year-old constituent, Freda, is recovering well from a serious stroke, but she has been told that there is an 18-week wait for physiotherapy and that this is the NHS standard. Does the Minister think that that is good enough?
I cannot comment on the individual case, but I can say that NHS England and we at the Department are working closely with the Stroke Association to develop a new national plan for stroke in England which we expect to publish this summer. The hon. Lady’s constituents and mine will benefit from the national policy narrative, but they will also benefit from some brilliant charities that work on the ground with constituents. Yesterday, I saw Chandlers Ford Stroke Support Group at the amazing Funtasia in my constituency. That group does a lot to support people in stroke as well.
In Worcestershire, we are fortunate to have some excellent stroke services serving my constituents across the whole county. Does the Secretary of State agree that the most important aspect of any service is leadership? With that in mind, will he update the House on his progress in appointing a new chair for our trust to deliver stroke services and other services to Redditch?
I am not close to that issue, but I am told that we have some excellent candidates, and I think that my hon. Friend will be pleased.
The most important service that stroke patients need is priority in getting to hospital for the treatment they need. A patient in my constituency recently had to wait five hours for an ambulance, with a GP sitting next to her begging the service to send one. East Midlands Ambulance Service has now had a review and will be getting an increase in its funding, but can that be made faster over the next two years?
The new ambulance standards are designed to do exactly that. I note the hon. Lady’s welcome for that in her area. That is critical, but of course it is critical that people get to the right place and get the right treatment. That is why I said at the start of these exchanges that centralising stroke treatment is not always popular but is often the best thing for clinical outcomes.