The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) today launched a joint pilot initiative to display important public health messages on ambulances.
Over the coming months 19 Emergency and PCS ambulances (non-emergency patient transport) across Belfast and South Eastern areas will be used for carrying life-saving messages.
The PHA’s F.A.S.T campaign, which raises public awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and actions to take if you think someone is having one, will be the first public health message carried on Northern Ireland ambulances.
The F.A.S.T campaign was launched in June 2011 to increase awareness of stroke symptoms in an easy to remember way – Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call 999, as research had shown that awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke, and what action to take, was low among the general population.
Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA, said: “Strokes claim the lives of 1,300 people in Northern Ireland every year. 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.
“Following the launch of the original campaign the number of 999 calls about symptoms of a possible stroke have increased. It is hoped by using ambulances to carry the F.A.S.T message it will increase the number even further by reminding and reinforcing the importance of dialing 999 when stroke symptoms strike.”
Roisin O’Hara, Acting Chief Executive NIAS said “Ambulances cover over 5 million miles per year throughout Northern Ireland and are an ideal medium for raising awareness of health related messages aimed at improving the overall health and well being of our communities. NIAS is delighted to work in collaboration with the Public Health Agency to promote the FAST campaign.”
Commenting on the new arrangement, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “The Public Health Agency and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service are to be commended on this new initiative. It is a prime example of inter-agency collaboration within the health service sector.
“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.”
This is the first time public health messages have been carried on Northern Ireland ambulances. The F.A.S.T campaign message will run for six months and will be used by NIAS and the PHA as a trial for future public health campaigns.
Notes to the editor
- The artwork will be hosted on A&E and PCS ambulances (non-emergency patient transport) in Belfast and South Eastern area, 19 ambulances in total.
- This is a joint initiative between PHA and NIAS.
- NIAS have confirmed they will not be removing vehicles from the road to do this, there will be one vehicle per station at any given time, therefore hosting of artwork on 19 ambulances will be staggered.
- This is a trial in the use of ambulances to host public health campaign messages.
- 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.