Almost half of hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a shortage of specialist stroke consultants, figures suggest.
The data from King’s College London’s 2018-19 Ssnap (Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme) report reveals 48% of hospitals have had at least one stroke consultant vacancy for the past 12 months or more.
This has risen from 40% in 2016 and 26% in 2014.
Separate research suggests there is a similar outlook in Scotland.
The Stroke Association, which analysed the data, warned that the UK is hurtling its way to a major stroke crisis unless the issue is addressed.
The charity’s head, Juliet Bouverie, has called on the government and NHS England to make stroke medicine a more attractive proposition for junior doctors to specialise in, as well as training and developing other stroke professionals such as specialist nurses and therapists.
Prof Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, president of the British Association of Stroke Physicians, told the BBC a shortage of specialists and equipment is preventing hospitals carrying out the treatment. However, an NHS official said more people were already surviving and thriving after stroke and that it was looking to “modernise our stroke workforce ahead of long-term funding decisions for training being made by government later in the year”.