The FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) test is a simple but important method of helping people to recognise the tell-tale signs of a stroke.
It involves checking a person’s face for signs of weakness or facial droop, their arms for weakness, and their speech for slurring, or difficulty speaking.
Time is of the essence, so if any or all of these signs are present, it is important to dial 999.
Stroke is most often caused by a blood clot in the brain and can lead to long-term paralysis, memory loss and problems with speech and vision. In the most severe cases, strokes can be fatal.
In April 2014, the Welsh Ambulance Service took 1,218 emergency calls across Wales for patients with suspected stroke, compared to 1,206 in April 2013 and 1,015 in April 2012.
Chris Moore, the Trust’s Clinical Support Lead, said: “A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention, and recognising the signs of a stroke and dialling 999 quickly for an ambulance is crucial.
“The quicker the patient arrives at a specialist stroke unit, the quicker they will receive the right treatment and the more likely they are to make a better recovery. If you suspect a stroke, always dial 999.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service treats stroke as a medical emergency and works collaboratively with hospitals across Wales to ensure suspected stroke patients are seen quickly.
Whenever a stroke is suspected by ambulance crews, the hospital is contacted to alert them of the patient’s condition and the estimated time of arrival, with the aim of ensuring the patient receives the right care quickly.
May is Action on Stroke Month, and the Stroke Association is raising awareness of the risks of a ‘mini-stroke’ (a TIA, or transient ischaemic attack).
Every year, around 46,000 people in the UK have a TIA for the first time.
The symptoms of TIA are the same as stroke, but may only last for a few minutes and will have completely gone within 24 hours. After that, people appear to return to normal.
A UK-wide survey of people who had a TIA in the past five years has revealed that more than a third of them (37 per cent) dismissed it as a ‘funny turn.’
Only one in five people (22 per cent) experiencing symptoms of a TIA rang 999, and almost half of people (47 per cent) said the symptoms did not feel like an emergency.
A fifth of people (20 per cent) went on to have a major stroke.
Ana Palazon, Director Cymru for the Stroke Association, said: “The greatest risk of having a stroke is within the first few days after a mini-stroke, but because the symptoms are brief or mild, for many people it doesn’t feel like an emergency.
“Too many mini-stroke patients delay calling 999 when their symptoms start, often waiting instead for a GP appointment, or if they have visual problems visiting their optician for advice.
“When the symptoms start, you should call 999 and say you may be having a stroke. Urgently investigating and treating people who have a TIA or mini-stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80 per cent.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service has joined forces with the Stroke Association to design brand new FAST-themed posters for display on the side of emergency ambulances and rapid response cars.
The new posters are currently in production, and are expected to take their place on Trust vehicles in the coming weeks.
Visit www.stroke.org.uk/FAST for more information on the FAST campaign and on TIA.