Act FAST: World Stroke Day raises alarm for ‘second wave’ of pandemic stroke patients

On World Stroke Day (29 October), the Stroke Association is calling on all UK governments to commit to investing in Act FAST public health messaging.

Image: Stroke Association

New statistics from the Stroke Association reveal that almost one in three (29%) stroke survivors who had a stroke during the pandemic delayed seeking emergency medical attention due to COVID-19.

Acting promptly and quickly when someone is having a stroke is imperative for their health alongside the potential to reverse any side-effects.

FAST

As new local restrictions continue to be announced and fears around contracting COVID-19 mount, the Stroke Association is urging the public to treat stroke as the life-threatening condition it is.

“A stroke is a life-threatening condition and a mini-stroke is a warning sign that a major stroke is likely,” emphasises Dr David Hargroves, consultant stroke physician and clinical lead for Stroke across East Kent Hospitals

“By acting FAST you can save lives. Remember: Face – is their face drooping on one side? Arms – can they lift them? Speech – is their speech slurred? If you spot any one of these symptoms then it’s Time to call 999.”

Every year, there are 100,000 strokes across the UK – knowing the signs and how to act could help save lives.

Dr Hargroves continues: “The quicker your loved one receives the right specialist treatment the better their chances of avoiding long-term disability or death. 

“I’d like to reassure people that our specialist stroke units are equipped and ready to treat stroke patients. So, the best thing you can do if you see someone showing the signs of a stroke, is to call 999 immediately.”

DECREASE

The charity is making the call to action as figures reveal people are avoiding contacting health professionals due to the pandemic.

In fact, between April and June 2020 hospital attendances to Emergency Departments almost halved (44.7%) when compared to April to June 2019. This suggests that there are some people with potentially life-threatening conditions who are risking their lives by not going to the Emergency Departments.

Admissions to hospital stroke units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland continued to remain down. From 23 March to 30 June there were a total of 19,106 stroke admissions. This is a 10.6% (21,379) drop from 1 January to 31March 2020 and a 13.4% (22,068) drop compared to the same time (April to Jun 2019) last year.

Symptoms such as facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulties are the most common, (but not exclusive), signs of a stroke. The signs of a TIA/mini-stroke are the same as a stroke, but leave within 24 hours. A TIA/mini-stroke is a sign that a full stroke could be on the way.

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

“We heard from stroke clinicians in the first wave that as the number of reported COVID-19 cases went up, the number of people presenting at A&E with stroke dropped considerably,” explains Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association. 

“Strokes haven’t stopped happening, which means that people are in danger of dying at home, and not getting the treatment they need to prevent long-term disability.”

Juliet adds: “This World Stroke Day we’re living and adapting to a new normal across the globe, just like thousands of stroke survivors do on a daily basis.

“It could happen to you or someone you love, so as a community let’s not forget those people who may be living alone. 

“The NHS remains open and equipped to treat stroke patients. It’s vital that anybody who may be having a stroke is given the best chance of recovery because you acted FAST.”

KNOW THE SIGNS

Symptoms such as facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulties are the most common, (but not exclusive), signs of a stroke. 

The signs of a TIA/mini-stroke are the same as a stroke, but leave within 24 hours. A TIA/mini-stroke is a sign that a full stroke could be on the way.

Other signs of stroke can include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet.
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences.
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness or a sudden fall.
  • A sudden, severe headache.

If you spot any one of these signs of a stroke, don’t wait. Call 999 straight away.

For more information about stroke and the Act FAST campaign go to the Stroke Association website