Greg Tanner considers himself an incredibly lucky man. He was walking to his car when he had a stroke. Strangers noticing his distress called an ambulance that took him, within minutes, to Northwick Park Hospital in North London.

The emergency team immediately scanned him and confirmed he’d had a stroke and received thrombolysis – but it didn’t work. Fortunately for Greg, luck was still on his side.

“I don’t remember details but they decided to transfer me to Charing Cross hospital for a new treatment, thrombectomy. I didn’t understand what that meant then, but I do now and I feel so fortunate that it was an option for me.”

Thrombectomy is a relatively new and exciting way of treating strokes. It involves inserting a catheter into an artery to remove a clot in the brain. It’s a highly skilled operation that happens rapidly, usually within a few hours of someone having their stroke.

At Charing Cross they went in through the femoral artery in Greg’s groin running up into his brain, where the clot was captured in a fine mesh ‘bubble’ and removed completely.

“I know now that it’s not a treatment that is available in many places. Thankfully, I was in the right place at the right time. Having met other stroke survivors, I now realise how different my recovery might have been. It’s quite frightening. I would not have had the same outcome if I’d been somewhere else.”

Four hours after his collapse, Greg was sitting up in bed drinking tea and talking normally. He had no issues with feeling or movement in his arm or leg, no cognitive issues. He felt almost fine and is now back at work.

In the UK someone has a stroke every five minutes. The majority (85%) of those strokes are ischaemic, caused by blood clots cutting off blood to part of the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do.

Although only a relatively small number of stroke patients (around 1 in 10) are suitable patients for thrombectomy, for those that are, it can be a very powerful intervention.

It removes clots too big to be broken down by clot-busting drugs, so it can significantly reduce long-term disability in people with severe strokes.

Thrombectomy is also cost-effective, which matters as stroke currently costs the UK economy £26bn. Survivors return home sooner, reducing hospital costs and they are less likely to need high levels of social care.

On average, researchers estimate that thrombectomy saves the NHS £47,000 per patient over 5 years. Without it, people experiencing severe strokes are more likely to be left with severe disability requiring life-time care.

Despite the advantages it offers, there are significant challenges to delivering thrombectomy in many parts of the country.

There are not enough trained specialists to be able to provide a 24/7 service in all areas. Specialist neuroscience centres, where thrombectomy procedures usually happen, are not evenly distributed across the UK. Worryingly, we know that in some areas even basic stroke treatments are not being given to all stroke patients, let alone cutting-edge procedures.

At the Stroke Association we are working to ensure everyone is able to access all types of stroke treatment, including thrombectomy, no matter where they are based.

That’s why we’re actively involved in supporting evidence-based changes to the way hospital services are designed and located, to try to abolish the current postcode lottery of stroke care in thrombectomy and right across the stroke pathway.

In Wales, we are working with commissioners to develop new thrombectomy services. In Scotland, where there are currently no thrombectomy services, we are in discussions to reinstate a service as soon as possible.

And in Northern Ireland, we are calling for routine funding of thrombectomy and quality services across the care pathway.

In England, we co-chair the National Stroke Programme, part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which has specific milestones both to increase the number of eligible patients receiving thrombectomy, and also to equip the NHS workforce to deliver them.

These are positive proposals and we look forward to working with Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and Integrated Care Systems in making them a reality.