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New data suggests that people put off seeking help for stroke during pandemic



The Relaunch of the Act F.A.S.T. campaign urges everyone to take immediate action on seeing any stroke symptoms to save lives – the NHS is open.

There are around 100,000 strokes a year in the UK, at least one stroke every five minutes

The latest data show a 13% drop in hospital attendances for stroke during the early phase of the pandemic, between March – July 2020

Stroke is a medical emergency – don’t hesitate to call 999

Data from the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic last year show that admissions to hospital for stroke fell in the first wave, a 13% drop between March - July 20202.

PHE data shows the average yearly stroke related deaths for all ages between 2017-2019 is 3,073 in the West Midlands region, a rate of 54.7 per 100,000 population.

Stroke is a medical emergency and anyone experiencing symptoms should seek urgent help. Early treatment not only saves lives but results in a greater chance of a better recovery, as well as a likely reduction in permanent disability from stroke.

Public Health England (PHE), supported by the Stroke Association, is today relaunching the Act F.A.S.T. campaign reminding people of the symptoms of strokeand why urgently calling 999 is vital in saving lives. Stroke is a time sensitive condition which means that any hesitancy and delay in getting treatment kills brain cells and has sadly and unnecessarily proven to be fatal in the early phase of the pandemic.

Think and act F.A.S.T., the signs of stroke are:

• Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?

• Arms – can they raise both their arms and keep them there?

• Speech – is their speech slurred?

• Time – time to call 999/are they having speech difficulties?

Dr Lola Abudu, Director of Health and Wellbeing forPublic Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands, said: “Stroke is a medical emergency and is still one of the leading causes of death in England. Each year in the West Midlands, around 3,000 lives are lost because of stroke, that’s why it’s vital people know how to spot the signs and call 999 as soon as possible.

“The most common signs of stroke are changes to the face, arms and speech – acting fast and getting treatment will help save lives and prevent people from severe disability. Even if you only spot one sign of stroke, you should call 999. Sometimes, a stroke can be very mild, so if you have any concerns about any early signs whatsoever, call an ambulance immediately – don’t wait until there is a second potentially more fatal stroke. The NHS is open and safe; the hospital will want to see anyone with stroke symptoms as soon as possible, so don’t delay and call 999.”

Around 1.9 million nerve cells in the brain are lost every minute that a stroke is left untreated, which can result in slurred speech and paralysis. If left untreated, a stroke can result in permanent disability or death.

There are around 100,000 strokes a year in the UK - at least one stroke every five minutes1 sadly causing about 34,000 deaths per year.

Stroke is the fourth single leading cause of death in the UK and the single largest cause of complex disability.

Black people are twice as likely to have a stroke than white people. On average, people of black African, black Caribbean and South Asian descent in the UK have strokes at an earlier age. With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting these groups, there’s an even greater need to ensure that they aren’t being affected by other conditions. The campaign includes specific activity targeted at communities from ethnic minorities.

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “Every five minutes, someone in the UK will have a stroke. Stroke kills tens of thousands and leaves others with complex and severe disability every year. Acting FAST is the biggest thing you can do to save a life. As soon as you see any of the signs of stroke in yourself or someone else, you need to call 999.

“Last year we saw thousands of people with suspected stroke put off calling 999, due to fear of catching COVID-19 or being a burden on the NHS. People could now be living with more severe disability than they otherwise would because they put off calling 999. That’s why you need to know that acting FAST and calling 999 saves lives.”

Some other signs of stroke or mini stroke can include:

• Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes

• Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your body (including in your leg)

• Sudden memory loss or confusion

• Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other signs

The Act F.A.S.T. campaign includes TV, Video on Demand, radio, social media, partnerships and PR activity. Activity will also be targeted to ethnic minorities, working with community groups and using multicultural radio and TV channels. Radio ads are available in English, Hindi and Punjabi. We are working closely with charities who provide support to people who may be at risk of stroke and those who provide support to people who have had a stroke.

For information on stroke go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke

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