50+ health

Stroke Awareness Campaign

FAST - Face Arm Speech Time Campaign to raise awareness of stroke symptoms

A three-year £12 million communications campaign to promote the public awareness of stroke was announced today by Health Minister Ann Keen.

The campaign will be launched in February 2009, and will be supported by advertising, public relations and direct marketing communications.

Stroke, the loss of brain function due to a blood clot or bleed in the brain, is the third leading cause of death in the UK, and the single largest cause of adult disability in England.

The awareness campaign to be launched in February 2009, will teach the public and NHS staff to remember FAST - Face Arm Speech Time - to help them recognise the symptoms of stroke and understand that prompt emergency treatment can reduce the risk of death and disability.

Improving public awareness of the symptoms of stroke is a key element of the National Stroke Strategy, published one year ago today. Since the launch of the strategy, major progress has been made in the organisation of stroke services.

An audit, published by the Royal College of Physicians in August 2008 showed that 96 percent of hospitals in England now offer specialist acute stroke care which including:

  • A consultant with responsibility for stroke
  • Formal links with patient and carer organisations
  • Multidisciplinary meetings at least weekly to plan patient care
  • Provision of information to patients about stroke
  • Continuing education programmes for staff

Improvements have also been made to the management of minor strokes (transient ischaemic attack or TIA) with:

  • All hospitals now offering CT scanning to diagnose stroke using x-rays of the brain
  • 94 percent of hospitals have an on-site TIA service where minor stroke patients at risk of having a full stroke can be identified and given preventative treatment.

The chief executive of The Stroke Association, John Barrick commented: "The Department of Health's stroke awareness campaign is vital. Better public understanding of stroke, its symptoms and treating it as a medical emergency will significantly improve the chances of recovery for the 150,000 people who have a stroke every year in the UK. The Stroke Association has been promoting FAST since 2005. We know that it's the best way for people to remember how to recognise the signs of stroke and call 999 straight away. The awareness campaign will give this work a fantastic boost and could help reduce avoidable deaths resulting from stroke."

FAST : Know the symptoms of stroke

  1. Face: facial weakness - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  2. Arm: does it show weakness? - can the person raise both arms?
  3. Speech: problems - can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  4. Time: time to call 999

Each year, approximately 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK. After heart disease and cancer, it is the most common cause of death. The cost to the NHS and the wider economy is enormous, costing billions of pounds, as patients may require long term care, rehabilitation and be unable to return to work. Specialised care in dedicated stroke units has been shown to reduce mortality by up to 25 per cent when compared to care given on a general ward.

This article was published on Fri 5 December 2008

Image © James Steidl - Fotolia.com

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