Stroke patients left without speech therapy

Six out of ten local authorities in Sweden do not employ speech therapists for stroke patients, according to figures from the Swedish National Stroke Register.

“This is serious, as there is plenty of evidence that early and intensive speech training pays off,” said Ann-Charlotte Laska, consultant at the stroke unit of Stockholm’s Danderyd Hospital to Svenska Dagbladet.

Nearly 30,000 Swedes suffer strokes – blood clots on the brain or brain haemorrages – every year. Around one third of these patients experience difficulty speaking afterwards, a condition known as aphasia. Only between 25 and 40 percent of local authorities can offer speech therapy.

The chairman of Sweden’s Aphasia Association, Lars Berge-Kleber, says hospitals and central government need to take a greater share of the responsibility.

“The problem is the divided responsibility. The state is responsible for speech therapist training, while local authorities are responsible for healthcare. The state must live up to its responsibility and train more people. A new course started recently in Uppsala, but it’s not enough.”

The lack of speech therapists is “dire” for the Aphasia Association’s 5,000 members, said Berge-Kleber.

“What is most difficult is not being able to communicate. It is easy to become isolated, and that hits the whole family. This leads in turn to the problem becoming invisible in society,” he said.

Berge-Kleber argued that people with speech problems caused by strokes are able with proper training to return to work.

“This leads to benefits for society, and improved quality of life for the individual,” he said.