Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said that asking doctors to use Google to find their own advice on treating stroke patients is putting people at risk.
In response to parliamentary questions from Mr Cole-Hamilton, Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed that the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) guidelines on stroke were withdrawn in 2020 due to being over 10 years old, however new guidelines will not be in place until February 2023. The Health Secretary said that in the meantime healthcare practitioners are invited to “look to other up-to-date evidence-based guidelines to inform practice”.
According to the Scottish Stroke Care Audit, stroke is the third most common cause of death in Scotland and the most common cause of severe physical disability among adults. It is estimated that around 15,000 people in Scotland have a stroke each year.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"Patients will be deeply concerned to hear that there are no guidelines for stroke treatment currently in place. As medical knowledge advances there will always be a need to update guidance but there is no reason why doctors and their patients should be left with a significant gap between the expiry of one set of guidelines and the implementation of the next.
“In the meantime, the Health Secretary is telling doctors to just google it. That imposes a real risk that people will receive different standards of care in different parts of the country.
"Health care practitioners need new and updated guidelines urgently, they cannot wait another year.
"These failings are emblematic of a government who have missed the opportunity to deliver a solid NHS recovery plan, voted down Scottish Liberal Democrat plans for a staff burnout prevention strategy, and now is telling practitioners to rely on their own internet research while they wait another year for guidelines."