Ireland is facing a “tsunami” of stroke cases in the next 10 years after research warned that the stroke rate will soar to almost 12,000 new incidences a year.
According to the Stroke Alliance for Europe (Safe), this represents a 58% increase.
The results have prompted a demand by the Irish Heart Foundation for urgent investment in stroke services.
The increase, predicted to be among the highest in Europe, will see the cost of stroke rise by nearly 40% over the almost €500m the research estimates is already spent annually in Ireland to treat the disease.
Around 7,500 people in Ireland are hospitalised due to stroke each year, according to the HSE’s National Stroke Programme.
Ireland spends less than 1% of its total health budget on stroke, around half the European average and a quarter of the sum spent by other countries, the pre-Covid study reveals.
“These findings demonstrate yet again how low stroke is on our list of health priorities, despite being Ireland’s third largest killer disease and the biggest cause of acquired disability,” said Chris Macey, head of advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation. “This research, conducted by the University of Oxford for Safe, shows the tsunami of new strokes we are facing in Ireland is due mainly to our ageing population.
“It is a wake-up call to health service planners that a failure to invest now to futureproof already chronically underfunded services will not just overwhelm our stroke units, but will also create a major and inevitable spill- over that will impinge on other services at acute hospitals,” he said. “Tackling this decisively now will not just save lives and promote recovery on a large scale among stroke sufferers, it will significantly reduce the overall cost of the disease for a health service that is on its knees due to the pandemic.”
Among the 32 nations surveyed, Ireland is one of the most reliant on care provided by family and friends.