A 34-year-old from Oxfordshire who has suffered weakness in one half of her body following a stroke has spoken out after being left to ‘suffer in silence’ by the health services.

Jo Cross suffered a stroke in December 2016, but after getting emergency treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, says she was not offered any therapy or support to help with her recovery.

She has now backed calls by the Stroke Association this week for improved rehabilitation for stroke survivors – the lack of which, the charity says, is putting their recoveries at risk.

The former accountant told how her life was changed forever when she suffered the stroke late at night while lying in bed at her home in Clifton.

She had been told by doctors that the pain in her neck she had experienced that day was down to an ear condition.

However, after the pained worsened significantly she was able to alert family members who called an ambulance and she was rushed to hospital.

The stroke left her suffering weakness on one side of her body, unable to walk and with difficulty speaking.

However, in the nine months that followed her hospital treatment, in the absence of any professional care, she had to rely on her mother to massage her paralysed arm and leg in the hope that her mobility would improve.

It was only when her GP realised she had not been referred to a rehabilitation programme in the autumn of 2017 that she was enrolled in the outpatient physio programme at the Oxford Centre for Enablement (OCE).

Speaking about her ordeal, Miss Cross said: “I felt so alone in what can be a very lonely world as a young stroke survivor. I felt lost in my own body.

“I hardly spoke for months due to the issues with my communication. I had to learn how to speak again and still find it hard.

“I felt very low but was very determined and motivated to try and walk again which kept me going.

“There was no rehabilitation to support me, so I felt as though I was just left to suffer in silence.

“I ended up getting worse because things I was trying to do to help myself weren't helping, and in some cases they were making things worse.”

Miss Cross has now completed her outpatient physio programme at the OCE but is still unable to walk unaided and has had to re-learn to read and write.

She said: “A stroke is a cruel condition that seems to take everything within an instant, adequate support should be in place to not abandon or isolated stroke survivors.”

NICE guidelines recommend at least 45 minutes of each type of rehabilitation therapy needed by stroke survivors five days a week for as long as it is of benefit to them.

However, the Stroke Association has this week revealed that, on average, stroke survivors only receive about a third of that.

The charity's chief executive Juliet Bouverie said: “Almost two thirds of stroke survivors leave hospital with a disability.

“For those who have been robbed of the ability to carry out simple everyday tasks, access to rehabilitation therapy can be truly life-changing, for them and their families."

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the John Radcliffe, said it would not comment on individual cases, but pointed out that it has been rated highly for its stroke care in the latest Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme.

Head of therapy services Terry Cordrey went on: “There is always room for improvement but these independent ratings indicate that stroke patients in Oxford can expect to receive a high standard of care and therapy.

“While patients are being treated on the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit, a variety of therapists work together with nurses and doctors to help patients regain as much independence as possible following a stroke.

“Therapy starts as soon as possible after a patient has suffered a stroke. The rehabilitation team supports and assists patients by identifying goals and by developing a rehabilitation plan to help them reach these goals.”

A new service to help stroke survivors was also rolled out across the county in April.

The Early Supported Discharge Service, which offers home physiotherapy six days a week, will benefit about 200 patients a year.

However OUH also admitted that 'lessons had been learned' after a patient was left without access to physiotherapy following a hip operation.

The incident had highlighted a ‘miscommunication’ between the trust, the CCG and Healthshare and had prompted a full investigation by OUH.

In a report to the trust’s board on Wednesday, chief nurse Sam Foster said there was a need for OUH to strengthen the discharge processes, gain a closer working partnership with community services and improve communication with the CCG over the privatisation of services.