Norwich and South Norfolk stroke survivors in call for communication support service

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
7:52 PM

Stroke survivors in Norwich and South Norfolk are calling for a communication support service to be reinstated after a loss of funding.

South Norfolk stroke support group meeting in Cafe Marzano at the Forum, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

The Stroke Association ran the service to help sufferers left with aphasia – a condition where people have difficulty speaking or understanding speech – learn how to talk again or use other means of communicating.

But the charity stopped providing the service in March last year after losing NHS funding.

Since then sufferers have attended an “aphasia café” held every Monday at Cafe Marzano in The Forum, Norwich as an informal meeting place for people with communication difficulties.

But Joyce Bell, whose husband Colin suffers from aphasia following a stroke at the age of 52 in 2005, said: “The loss of the communication support service provided by the Stroke Association came as a major blow to the many people living with the consequences of a stroke.

“Imagine the impact on patients, their families, carers and friends when a person loses the ability to speak, write and communicate following a stroke.

“Once people are discharged from hospital they are very often left on their own in the community to cope with this devastating condition.

“Recovery can be extremely slow and very often turns out to be a life-long impairment.”

Janice Barnston, from Easton, whose husband, David, had a stroke in November 2012, said professional help was vital to support families.

“I can help my husband as much as possible but I am not a trained professional,” Mrs Barnston said.

“You need professional input to be able to support your partner because once you’ve had a stroke, it is devastating and changes your life completely – not just the person who has had a stroke but the person’s partner and the rest of the family.”

Earlier this year Sara Betsworth, the charity’s regional head of operations in the East of England, called on Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to take the lead in providing funding for community support programmes.

She claimed a lack of support services in the community often meant survivors had to cope with managing a severe disability on their own.

Former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who himself suffered a minor stroke on a visit to Ramallah on the West Bank in 2004, sometimes visit the aphasia cafe to lend his support.

He called on stroke support in the community to be prioritised within the health service in a similar way to how support for cancer patients has.

“Services in hospital are so much better,” Dr Gibson said. “What has been neglected is the services after they come out of hospital.”