A new programme of quicker assessment and treatment of patients with "mini-strokes" could relieve pressure on GP surgeries and save the NHS £125m, a study has shown.
About 1,000 strokes a month could be prevented if both strokes and transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes, are treated as medical emergencies, according to research from GE Healthcare.
Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK, after cancer and heart disease, leading to more than 67,000 deaths a year. It is the UK's leading cause of severe disability and costs the NHS an estimated £2bn, with a total cost to the UK economy of more than £7bn.
Despite its prevalence, stroke and TIA are not widely perceived as medical emergencies across the UK.
The research, which modelled the results of a clinical trial by Oxford University's Stroke Prevention Research Unit, was presented to a health debate on how treating stroke and TIAs as emergencies could reduce the national burden of stroke, hosted by The Stroke Association and GE Healthcare.
"The national stroke strategy published last year recognised the need to change attitudes and processes around diagnosing and treating stroke," said Nigel Mason, UK president of GE Healthcare. "Clinical guidelines now need to go further in highlighting the need to treat both stroke and TIAs as medical emergencies in order to save lives and money."