The cost of stroke care in Europe could increase to £77 billion in 2040 if countries fail to invest in stroke prevention, treatments and rehabilitation, according to the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE).

In its report, ‘At What Cost, the economic impact of stroke in Europe’, the alliance adds to the existing evidence that shows stroke care is woefully underfunded and needs urgent investment in the UK.

Lead researcher, Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez says, “The research was completed before Covid-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, health services across Europe have been diverted away from non-infectious conditions, including stroke care, therefore we feel that the projected costs in our report are likely to be even higher.”

The study included all stroke-related costs that occurred in the EU countries plus Iceland, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. Report findings show for the first time the cost of stroke along the whole stroke care pathway, including not only direct healthcare costs but also the costs of informal care and productivity losses due to disability or death from stroke. The study provides scientific projections related to stroke costs for the next 20 years.

Stroke costs are set to increase hugely over the coming years

Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at the Stroke Association said “The findings of this report show that stroke incidence is rising across Europe including the UK.  In 2017, tragically, over 40,000 people died from a stroke in the UK and there are over one million people living with the long-term and life-limiting affects of a stroke. As this report shows, stroke doesn’t just impact individuals and their families, but society as whole. There is a substantial economic cost associated with stroke – and unless we act now, these costs are set to increase hugely over the coming years.

“By investing in stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation now, we can limit the devastating impact that stroke has on stroke survivors and support them to rebuild their lives. This will also help to reduce the future costs to health and social care departments.”

In addition, the report looks at three interventions which are in the latest stroke guidelines - the treatment of atrial fibrillation to prevent stroke, mechanical thrombectomy (the clot retrieval from the blood vessel in the brain) in the acute phase of stroke and community-based rehabilitation after stroke. The research shows that no matter at which point in the stroke pathway you intervene – prevention, treatment, long-term care – there are improvements in patient outcomes and cost savings.

The number of new strokes and the number of people living with stroke is set to rise due to ageing population in Europe, as age is the biggest, non-modifiable risk factor for stroke.

Dr Ahmed added: “This research will help the UK to find solutions to help us reduce the burden of stroke and future proof our healthcare system. We call on UK government and the devolved nations to make stroke care a priority in the UK to help save more lives and reduce future costs.