The members of the recently formed TALK speech therapy workshop for recoverers from stroke had a visit from Leonard Levy of the Department of Health’s Vascular Programme on Tuesday. (July 17)

Mr Levy has already visited the other five TALK workshops in Surrey and was keen to meet the recoverers and volunteers who have been at the weekly meetings at Ashford Hospital since the sixth workshop was formed there in April this year. (2007) The Surrey-based charity has a total of 91 volunteers for 91 recoverers and the one-to-one help focuses on improving speech difficulties encountered after a stroke.

Jane Langley, Co-ordinator for TALK said: “The effect of a stroke can be devastating and although many people make huge progress afterwards, those who suffer from Dysphasia experience the frustration of not being able to make themselvesunderstood. Our TALK workshops are designed to be confidence-building, interesting and fun!”

Stroke is the third biggest killer in England with 50,000 people dying from it each year. It also has a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of those who do survive, with a third left with a long-term disability. Last week the Government launched a consultation into future of stroke services and, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said that the challenge is to modernise stroke services at every stage and drive down death and disability caused by strokes.

The consultation will look at how the NHS can bring the standard of stroke care into line with that of heart disease and cancer – the other two big killers in the country. The consultation will shape the final Stroke Strategy which will be rolled out later this year.

After visiting the Ashford Hospital TALK workshop Mr Levy said: “I am very pleased to have visited all six TALK workshops inSurrey. I admire the work that the TALK volunteers are doing, in partnership with local health and social services, to help stroke recoverers to regain their confidences.

“I have received a number of letters from TALK members, from which we have learnt a great deal. We think it is very important to work with people with personal experience of stroke, and I will tell other people about your excellent work at my meetings with stroke survivors and carers all over England. I hope that as many of the TALK members as possible will participate in the current consultation on the stroke strategy.”

Footnote: A stroke is a brain equivalent of a heart attack. A stroke can be diagnosed by using a quick assessment called FAST - Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech Problems, Test all three. If someone has these symptoms an ambulance should be called straight away.

There are also Transient Ischaemic Attacks (or TIAs) which are often described as 'mini strokes'. The term TIA is used where the symptoms and signs resolve themselves within 24 hours. A TIA increases the subsequent chance of a stroke.

Mortality rates are falling: for people under 65, the three year average death rate from stroke has fallen by 23% from 1993-95 to 2002-04, and for people 65-75 the death rate has dropped by 30% over the same period.

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