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Improved Service for Stroke Patients

18 February 2010

A recent report by the National Audit Office shows ambulance services are delivering better care to people who have had a stroke. 

The report, ‘Progress on Improving Stroke Care’ (February 2010), shows ambulance services have played a vital role in the recent progress and improvements in stroke care within the NHS.

Every year strokes devastate the lives of hundreds of people across the county and research has shown that up to 85% are caused by a blood clot. Administering clot-busting drugs (thrombolysis) within three hours can mean the difference between life and death.

Over the past two years Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) has worked closely with its healthcare partners across the region to establish a life-saving stroke development programme.

                   Dr Alison Walker

Dr Alison Walker, YAS Medical Director, said: “We have invested a lot of time and effort into improving our services for stroke patients to reduce disability and increase the chances of survival.

“All ambulance trusts have altered the priority categorisation for stroke patients so that they receive medical assistance more quickly and frontline staff are better trained in the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech Test) diagnostic tool which helps them to appropriately risk-assess and refer these patients to expert care.

“In addition, YAS has established ‘stroke pathways’ across the region which enable ambulance crews to fast-track patients who may benefit from life-saving thrombolysis treatment to specialist stroke units.

“We are pleased the measures we have put in place are benefiting patients and we will continue to work closely with our healthcare partners to further improve services in the future.”

FAST requires an assessment of the three specific symptoms of stroke:

• Facial weakness - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
• Arm weakness - can the person raise both arms?
• Speech problems - can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
• Time to call 999.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK and is the leading cause of adult disability. It is also a common misconception that stroke only happens to older people. Of the estimated 150,000 strokes that occur every year in the UK, a quarter of them will happen to people aged under 65.
Strokes can be prevented through lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet - particularly reducing salt intake, drinking alcohol in moderation, not smoking and taking regular exercise.

Produced By: Corporate Communications Department