Public Health Agency Promotes Stroke Awareness

PHA runs public information campaign to raise awareness of stroke symptoms

PHA runs public information campaign to raise awareness of stroke symptoms

The Public Health Agency’s (PHA’s) Act FAST public awareness campaign commenced this week (13th Dec) to promote awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke. 

The campaign will run from 13th December until 6th January across TV, radio, digital and outdoor.

Stroke is the third main cause of death in adults in Northern Ireland, after heart disease and cancer, and the single greatest cause of adult disability.

Every year in Northern Ireland stroke accounts for around 2,800 hospital admissions and although the majority of strokes happen in older people, approximately one in ten strokes occur in people under 55 years of age.

Dr Brid Farrell, Deputy Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “This is a critical time to raise awareness and to remind the public to seek urgent medical care if they or someone they know experience any of the symptoms of stroke.

“The campaign will reinforce the message that people must not delay seeking medical treatment. A person is at a higher risk of death or disability if they take a stroke, than from COVID-19, if not assessed and treated urgently.

“Across Northern Ireland people are following COVID-19 restrictions, but we are concerned that many people are choosing to stay at home when they should be seeking medical attention. Each wave of the pandemic saw a reduction in stroke attendances in hospital for stroke related care.

“A stroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention, so recognising a stroke and calling 999 is crucial. To be most effective, stroke treatments such as thrombolysis (clot dispersal) and thrombectomy (clot removal) must be provided for suitable patients within a defined timeframe.  

“Any delays in seeking medical attention could mean that otherwise suitable patients will not be able to avail of the service. Knowing the signs and symptoms and acting FAST can reduce the level of disability that results from a stroke and improve the chances of survival. The faster you act the more of the person you can save.”

Dr Michael McCormick, Interim Clinical lead at NI Stroke Network, welcomed the campaign and said: “This campaign is one of a number which the NI Stroke Network and PHA have undertaken over recent years to encourage people to act FAST and dial 999.

“This message is more important now than ever as people may feel less inclined to attend emergency departments during the pandemic. We hope the campaign will help change that.”

Follow the F.A.S.T approach, if you notice even one of these signs call 999.

•           Face – Has it fallen on one side?

•           Arms – Can they raise them?

•           Speech – Is it slurred?

•           Time – make the call immediately, Dial 999.

Cathy Brolly from the Stroke Association said: “We all know the unprecedented pressures that our hospitals and emergency services are currently experiencing. However, the Stroke Association want to remind people that stroke is still a medical emergency and to not delay seeking help this winter.

“The sooner somebody who is having a stroke gets urgent medical attention, the better their chances of survival and a good recovery. The Stroke Association welcomes the Public Health Agency’s Act FAST campaign as we want more people in Northern Ireland to know the FAST test and be able to recognise the signs of a stroke.

“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.”

Neil Johnston from Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke said: “We support hundreds of people across Northern Ireland who have experienced stroke through our Family Support Service, Post Rehab Exercise Programme and Support groups. We know the consequences of stroke can be huge for them and their families. Please know the symptoms and act FAST.”

Your chances of having a stroke reduce if you understand the risks and take action to prevent a stroke happening. You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by:

• knowing and managing your personal risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol or an irregular heartbeat (e.g. atrial fibrillation);
• exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight;
• reducing alcohol consumption;
• stopping smoking

Many serious conditions such as stroke and heart attack can be successfully treated if patients receive care quickly – but could be devastating or fatal if treatment is delayed. If you notice even one of these signs, no matter how mild, make the call. 

Symptoms in the F.A.S.T. test identify most strokes, but occasionally a stroke can cause different symptoms. 

For further information including the signs and symptoms of stroke visit:

The Northern Ireland Stroke Network is an action focused group established to implement improvements in stroke services in line with:      

  • New Decade, New Approach (NI Executive, 2020)
  • Reshaping Stroke Care – Saving Lives, Reducing Disability (DoH, 2019)
  • Systems not Structures, Changing Health & Social Care (2016)
  • National Clinical Guidelines (NICE CG68, CG162)
  • Improving Stroke Services in Northern Ireland (DHSSPS, 2008)

The NI Stroke Network brings together the stakeholders in stroke care – providers, commissioners and patients – to support the development of high quality, cost effective and equitable stroke services.