Stroke Awareness Campaign Saves Lives

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A three-year pound 12 million communications campaign to promote public awareness around 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 will teach the public and NHS staff to remember FAST - Face Arm Speech Time to call 999 - 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.

The National Stroke Strategy mandated the establishment of Stroke Care Networks to ensure that health and social care services for stroke are better integrated and better planned. One year on, all services in England now fall within a Stroke Care Network.

The Networks ensure that patients experience a seamless transition across stroke services within and between health and social care, and help the NHS and Local Authorities to work together effectively to drive forward improvements in care.

The Royal College of Physicians' Sentinel Audit published in August 2008 showed that 96 percent of hospitals in England now offer specialist acute stroke care which includes:


* 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

Health Minister, Ann Keen said: "As a former nurse, I know the NHS is rising to the challenges set out one year ago in the National Stroke Strategy by driving forward significant improvements in both emergency stroke services and long term rehabilitative care for people who have had a stroke.

"We want to build on this progress by helping the public to recognise the symptoms of stroke and dial 999 quickly. This campaign will give people a better understanding of stroke and the importance of fast treatment so that more lives can be saved and more long-term disabilities prevented."

Professor Roger Boyle, National Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said: "Launched a year ago today, the Stroke Strategy is a highly ambitious programme of improvements that will result in a stroke service that is among the best in the world.

"Over the past year, great progress has been made across stroke services, from better organisation of acute stroke care, to long-term support for patients who have had a stroke, and training of more stroke specialist physicians.

"The three year communications campaign, that will be launched in February, will help the public and NHS staff to use FAST to recognise the symptoms of stroke and appreciate the need to act quickly. It's important to remember that the faster a stroke patient receives emergency treatment, the better their chances are of surviving and avoiding long-term disability."

Jon Barrick, chief executive of The Stroke Association, said: "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."