Public Health England has launched its annual Act FAST campaign in the South West to remind people of the key symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 999 immediately if they notice any single one of the symptoms themselves or in others.

Research for PHE shows that 24% of people would wait to call an ambulance because they wrongly believe that they need to see two or more symptoms of stroke before making the call. Other barriers to dialling 999 include feeling that they need permission to act on behalf of others.

As part of the campaign, new films being released will encourage everyone in the South West – whether they are a stranger in the street, a family member at home or the person themselves – not to hesitate and to make the call immediately when they see any one of the key stroke symptoms:

  • 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 - to call 999

Radio DJ Mark Goodier, who had a stroke last November, and TV presenter Anna Richardson, whose father had a stroke, tell their personal stories alongside people who have survived stroke – some who recovered well and others who have been left with life-changing disabilities.

The stories show how disability can be greatly reduced if people react quickly to any of the signs of a stroke – urging people in the South West to act fast and call 999.

About 117,000 people on GP registers in the area have had a stroke during their lifetime. In 2015 there were 4,127 deaths caused by stroke in the South West. Nationally, there are over 100,000 strokes a year in the UK,6 causing over 40,000 deaths7,8,9 with two thirds of stroke survivors leaving hospital with a disability.10

Louise Shaw, Consultant Stroke Physician at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said:

“The signs of a stroke are not always immediately recognised by people, which is why knowing the FAST test could make a tremendous difference to someone who unfortunately suffers one. The sooner specialist emergency intervention can be provided the better because the road to recovery after a stroke can be a long and difficult one, but emergency treatment can significantly change the long term outcome.”

Phil Walker, 40, from Winsley, was treated for a stroke at the RUH Bath in 2010. He said:

“Without the speed of care I’m sure I would not be here as the amount of bleeding was described as acute. I'm lucky to be here but clearly many are not. As the general public, we need to recognise and react at such signs of stroke. Every second really does count.

“My stroke occurred at the age of 33 whilst in the gym in the midst of my preparation for a natural bodybuilding contest. I was in peak condition, extremely healthy. Unfortunately, due to a congenital condition I was totally unaware of my AVM (arteriovenous malformation) haemorrhaged whilst training. I began to lose use of my arms, legs, speech, my life as I thought.

“I collapsed. I recall being taken out the gym by the paramedics, the time between my collapse and reaching hospital I have no recollection of but I'm guessing it was very quick. I underwent a craniotomy days later to rectify the bleed and remove the AVM.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s National Director for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the country, and the faster someone experiencing a stroke gets emergency treatment, the more chance that person has of surviving and avoiding serious disability. It is crucial to Act FAST when you see any single one of the symptoms of stroke, and do not delay making that all-important 999 call.”

The charity, Stroke Association, has been working with Public Health England and endorses the message that people need to make the call when they recognise any of the symptoms of a stroke

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive, Stroke Association said:

“We know people recognise the signs of stroke but they aren’t taking the right action at the right time. A stroke is a brain attack and acting fast makes a huge difference. You are more likely to survive a stroke and make a better recovery if you call 999 on spotting any one of the symptoms. The quicker you act the more of the person you save.”