The number of 999 calls about symptoms of a possible stroke has increased by 23% in Northern Ireland since the launch of the F.A.S.T campaign in June.
The Public Health Agency launched the campaign to increase awareness of stroke symptoms in order to help save lives and to inform the public about F.A.S.T. – Face, Arm, Speech, and Time to call 999.
Face – Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
Arms – Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech – Is their speech slurred?
Time – Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.
Research had shown that awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke, and what action to take, was low among the general population.
The public information campaign, which is re-running in September, includes hard-hitting imagery to highlight the visible signs of stroke.
Stroke is a medical emergency and claims the lives of 1,300 people every year in Northern Ireland. It is the third most common cause of death and the greatest cause of adult disability. Each year there are 2,300 emergency admissions to hospital for stroke.
Stroke is an attack on the brain and requires immediate action, but not recognising the signs and symptoms can mean that urgent medical treatment is delayed, which increases the likelihood of brain damage.
Dr Brid Farrell, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA, said: “The PHA is delighted that the F.A.S.T campaign has had such a positive impact in increasing awareness of the symptoms of stroke and the good news is particularly poignant during Stroke Awareness Week (19–23 September 2011). It is hoped that the re-run of the campaign this month will help refresh the minds of everyone to the signs of stroke and more lives can be saved.
“Stroke is still one of the biggest causes of death and disability in Northern Ireland, so it is really important that everyone recognises the signs and the importance of dialling 999 as quickly as possible. The swift emergency action of dialling 999 can save lives and limit the damage in the brain.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I am extremely encouraged by this figure, which indicates to me that members of the public are becoming more aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke.
“Stroke can have a major and often devastating effect on everyone it touches, including the individual, their families and carers. It is the third main cause of death in adults in Northern Ireland and is the single greatest cause of adult disability.
"Raising public awareness of the early signs and symptoms of stroke is enormously important. Quick diagnoses and treatment for stroke saves lives and dramatically increases quality of life for many sufferers."
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
102 additional calls were received by the ambulance services for the monitoring period 02/06/2011 to 15/08/2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
Stroke awareness week runs from 19–23 September 2011.