Yorkshire Ambulance Service urges public to learn 'FAST' and help stroke patients

01 February 2018

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust is reminding the public to ‘Act FAST’ and become a life-saver.

The Trust is supporting a Public Health England campaign, run in conjunction with the Stroke Association, to raise awareness of the three main stroke symptoms.

The F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) acronym is a simple test to help people identify the most common signs of a stroke, and emphasises the importance of acting quickly by calling 999:

  • Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred? 
  • Time to call 999

Dr Steven Dykes, Deputy Medical Director for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “The sooner the symptoms are recognised and an ambulance is called, the quicker the person will receive the early treatment they need to increase their chance of survival and improve their chance of making a full recovery. The FAST test can be carried out by anyone and is a really effective way of spotting the typical signs of a stroke. It can undoubtedly save lives.”

A stroke is known as a ‘brain attack’. In 2016-17, YAS dealt with 6,594 emergency calls for patients with a suspected stroke. When someone suffers a stroke, the blood supply to part of the brain cuts off. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention as every minute is vital. Those patients who are treated in a hospital with clot-busting drugs within six hours are known to have better outcomes.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service is continually working with hospitals to develop and enhance its stroke pathways across the region. These enable ambulance clinicians to fast-track patients to specialist hyper acute stroke units for life-saving treatment, often bypassing the emergency department and taking patients directly for a CT scan to diagnose a clot.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service Chief Executive Rod Barnes has personal experience of how the Trust’s stroke pathways have a positive outcome for patients after his 86-year-old mum fell ill earlier this month.

Rod was visiting his mum at her warden-controlled retirement flat in Leeds on 10 January when she complained of feeling ill.

He said: “She sat down in her chair and started to moan and touch the side of her face. She wasn’t speaking coherently and was having spasms in her arms and legs. I called 999 as I thought she may be having a stroke and she soon developed facial droop and lost the feeling of her right side.”

Following a quick assessment, the ambulance crew took Edith to the hyper acute stroke unit at Leeds General Infirmary where she was met by a specialist stroke nurse and stroke consultant and taken for a CT scan. She had suffered a severe stroke and was given the clot-busting drug tPA; despite this she was only given a 10% chance of making a good recovery.

She was transferred to the stroke high dependency unit where she started to make a good recovery. In the three weeks that has followed, Edith has almost fully regained her movement and speech and is back on a normal diet.

Rod said: “I am not a clinician by background but I do know how important it is to quickly recognise the signs of stroke; my mum is a perfect example of that. If I hadn’t stopped to see her on the way home from work, recognised that she may have been having a stroke and called 999, she may not be here today. Her miraculous recovery is thanks to the professionalism of everyone involved, from the ambulance staff to the stroke unit at Leeds General Infirmary.”

Produced by: Corporate Communications Department