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RAF Lyneham

7.13 pm

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of 11,657 of my constituents. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Will those hon. Members who are not staying please leave quickly and quietly? The hon. Gentleman will then have a better opportunity to exhibit his honour on this matter.

Mr. Gray: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of 11,657 of my constituents who are very concerned about the possibility that the base at RAF Lyneham, the home of the Hercules aircraft, may have to close as a result of current Government studies. If that were to happen, not only would it cost my constituency £75 million in local income and 750 local jobs, but it would mean that all British Air Force, Army and Navy transport fleets would be based in one place. That would be at Brize Norton rather than Lyneham.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Traffic-calming Measures

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): It is my very sad duty to present a petition from 490 residents of North

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Claines and members of the general public using the A38 through Fernhill Heath in Worcestershire. It is one of the great sadnesses of being a Member of Parliament that one discovers that it is often only after a fatal accident has occurred that the necessary traffic-calming measures are put in place. The petition describes one such circumstance.

The petition implies no criticism of the Highways Agency, which is about to de-trunk the road and is at last showing sufficient urgency in its approach to the problem. However, with the imminence of de-trunking, the petitioners believe that it is all the more important that the House of Commons, the Highways Agency and the successor body, Worcestershire county council, are reminded of the importance of the issue.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Stroke Victims

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Kemp.]

7.17 pm

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): I thank the Speaker's Office for granting me this important debate. I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the issue of the support services available to the victims of strokes.

Let us first be clear what we are talking about. Each year more than 100,000 people in England and Wales have a first stroke. About 10,000 of them are under retirement age. There are 200 strokes each week in those under 55, and there are close to 60,000 deaths due to strokes each year.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in England and Wales after heart disease and cancer. It accounts for more than 8 per cent. of all deaths in men and 13 per cent. of deaths in women in England. The cost of stroke to the nation in terms of health and social care is estimated to be more than £2.3 billion. That is 5.8 per cent. of total national health service and social service expenditure. The total cost of stroke care is expected to rise in real terms by around 30 per cent. by 2023.

Most important for the purposes of this debate, stroke is the largest single cause of severe disability in England and Wales, with 300,000 people being affected at any one time. About a third of people who have had a stroke die within a year, a third make a good recovery and a third are left with a serious disability.

Over the last 20 years, a number of small, randomised controlled trials for stroke units have been conducted. These trials show that stroke units reduce mortality and disability compared with management in acute general medical wards. No other treatment for stroke has demonstrated such large benefits. It is imperative that all victims of stroke, no matter where they live, be treated in a stroke unit. That is just not happening at the moment.

The Royal College of Physicians sentinel audit has shown that only 26 per cent. of patients are accessing such treatment. Even those hospitals that have a stroke unit often have insufficient beds to accommodate all their stroke patients. That means that some patients are treated in general wards just paces away from the specialist care that they need. In Coventry, we are fortunate to have a stroke unit at the Walsgrave university hospital. However, it is estimated that at least five people continue to die each day and seven require institutional care because they could not receive care in a specialised unit.

I welcome the Government's commitment to improving the care of those affected by stroke as laid out in the national service framework for older people. I particularly welcome their commitment to stroke victims receiving treatment from specialist stroke teams in designated stroke units. The framework, which has been endorsed by the Stroke Association, provides an excellent care standard for victims of stroke. Should any of those near and dear to me suffer stroke, I would rest easier knowing that their care was based on that outlined in the document.

The first milestone in the implementation of the framework has already passed—by last month, every general hospital should have had a plan in place to introduce a specialised stroke service. That is where my

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concerns about the Government's approach to stroke services begin, because progress towards that milestone is not yet known. I take this opportunity to ask my hon. Friend how the Department of Health is monitoring progress in this area and what mechanisms it intends to use to ensure that the milestone is reached. It is vital that hospitals that have yet to introduce a plan are supported and, dare I say it, compelled to introduce one.

We should welcome the publication of the national framework, but the Government must do more. I am concerned that no resources have been made available for hospitals to pump-prime stroke units or to increase the size of a unit to accommodate all patients. Obviously, the success of stroke units depends on adequate staffing of the multi-disciplinary team, ideally comprising specialist nurses, a specialist physician, a speech therapist, a dietitian, a clinical psychologist, a pharmacist and a social worker. It is essential that the Government ensure that there are sufficient numbers of therapy staff to support stroke victims in making the best possible recovery. Health care professionals need to be encouraged to specialise in those fields.

Strokes primarily affect older people, and with an ageing population we can expect their incidence to increase in coming years. I welcome the work that the Government and the Stroke Association are doing on stroke prevention. I particularly welcome the Stroke Association's work on stroke prevention in the Afro-Caribbean population. Afro-Caribbean people are twice as likely to have a stroke as those of European origin, and are more likely to have their first stroke at an early age. Although research is under way to try to explain that, the Stroke Association is not waiting for the results, but is conducting a major campaign to raise awareness within the community. It should be congratulated on that initiative.

It is important to recognise that investment today in adequate stroke units across the country will reap huge rewards in the future for individual patients and the public purse. There is a danger, however, that stroke is seen only as an older person's condition, especially as the stroke standard is contained within the national service framework for older people. A significant number of younger people and children suffer, and will continue to suffer, from strokes. It is vital that the needs of young people are acknowledged and that appropriate treatment and support is available to them as part of a comprehensive stroke service. The Stroke Association has raised concerns with me about the extent to which the stroke standard is being applied to the care of younger patients. How does the Minister's Department plan to ensure that young stroke victims receive specialist care?

I reiterate the importance of this subject. We are all aware of the demographic time bomb, and if we fail to take action now, we are storing up huge problems for the future. Although I hope that the prevention programmes in place today will reduce the numbers who fall victim to stroke, realistically we must expect more and more stroke patients over the coming years. Patients of the future are entitled to expect the best possible care—that is, through being treated in a stroke unit.

I have some questions for my hon. Friend. How is the Department of Health monitoring the progress of hospitals' plans to introduce stroke units? What is the

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Department doing to encourage health care professionals to specialise in the field of stroke care? What plans does she have to provide assistance for existing stroke units to expand? What is the Department doing to encourage health care professionals to specialise in stroke care? What plans does she have to provide assistance for existing stroke units? Finally, how does her Department plan to ensure that young stroke victims receive specialist care? Stroke victims across the country await the Minister's response.

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