Post-hospital stroke care 'needs to improve'
Follow-up care given to stroke patients in England once they leave hospital is often lacking, regulators say.
The Care Quality Commission reviewed the performance of all 151 primary care trusts, finding gaps in rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy.
Patients often faced delays in being seen, while some areas were failing to provide services altogether, the official health regulator said.
Immediate improvement was needed, it added.
The findings comes after a major focus on hospital stroke services in recent years. This has led to improvements in testing and treatment in the immediate aftermath of a stroke.
This in turn has increased the numbers surviving and, as a result, there are now 50,000 people a year who are left with disabilities following a stroke.
This report looked at the services in place for these people to help them with everything from moving to talking.
It found that a third of areas did not provide specialist physiotherapy services for stroke patients, while nearly a half of areas were failing on specialist occupational therapy provision.
In 48% of areas, people had to wait two weeks or more on average until they received speech and language therapy.
Information packs and the support given to carers were also found to be lacking.
CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said: "The level of variation is a concern. We expect to see local health and social services working with stroke survivors, carers and representative groups to agree and implement a plan to improve services."
But Joe Korner, of the Stroke Association, said there was a risk the situation was only going to get worse in the current economic climate.
He said: "The Stroke Association has seen several community-based services come under threat of closure. We are at risk in some areas of the standard of post-stroke care regressing.
"This comes at a time when evidence suggests more not less investment is needed to help stroke survivors in the community with their recovery."
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley added the CQC was right to focus on rehabilitation care.
"It has a big impact on the recovery from stroke."