Stroke is a type of brain injury which affects 17 million people worldwide each year. It is the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer and a leading cause of adult physical disability (Feigin, Forouzanfar et al. 2014, Thrift, Cadilhac et al. 2014).
Stroke survivors can experience a wide range of poor outcomes that are long-lasting, including impairments of mobility, vision, speech and language; depression; and cognitive impairments such as memory problems, personality changes and fatigue (McKevitt, Fudge et al. 2011).
Stroke prevention and care have generally improved in recent decades, although it is still of very variable quality across Europe. Improvements in survival have been made particularly since the implementation of thrombolysis treatment made stroke a treatable condition, and since stroke services have in many countries been reorganised to provide acute care more efficiently and effectively, through streamlined care pathways and dedicated stroke units. However, due to the demographic shift toward older populations (and the strong association between stroke risk and age), the numbers of people having a stroke has continued to rise (Feigin, Mensah et al. 2015). There are increasing numbers of people living many years with the effects of stroke, needing specialist supportive care and rehabilitation, resulting in a growing burden of stroke on families, societies and the health systems that support them.