Calls for the reintroduction of the FAST Campaign
Monday, 16th April 2018
By June Shannon
More than half of stroke patients are not attending hospital in a timely manner post stroke putting them at risk of worse outcomes, the Oireachtas Health Committee has heard.
Addressing the Committee last month, the National Stroke Programme Clinical Lead, Dr Ronan Collins, said that more than 60 per cent of patients did not get to hospital in the correct timeframe in the immediate aftermath of stroke.
Dr Collins called for the reintroduction of the FAST campaign for stroke awareness which he said resulted in a significant increase in the number of stroke patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) within a much shorter timeframe. The numbers presenting in a timely fashion had now decreased, and there was evidence that this was directly related to the cessation of the awareness campaign, he said.
Dr Collins said that in terms of cure and prevention, it was “disappointing” that the number of people attending EDs within an ideal timeframe remained low.
When it comes to acute stroke treatment, time is of the essence. The brain does not survive for very long without its oxygen supply.
“When it comes to acute stroke treatment, time is of the essence. The brain does not survive for very long without its oxygen supply. I am sure the committee is familiar with the FAST campaign. We would like to see it reintroduced. We have strong evidence from this country alone that when the FAST campaign was running, there was a significant increase in the number of people presenting within a much shorter timeframe after onset of symptoms. The numbers now presenting have relapsed to pre-advertisement era, particularly in areas of lower socioeconomic resources. This is a concern for those involved in the stroke programme,” he said.
Dr Collins explained that in Ireland stroke was the third leading cause of death, the leading cause of neurological-acquired disability in adult life and one of the overall causes of adult acquired disability.
He also said that the Stroke Alliance for Europe, SAFE, had estimated that in light of Ireland’s demography “if we do not change the curve of incidence, we probably will experience a 58% increase in stroke numbers over the next ten to 15 years, which will represent a massive challenge for us.”
However, Dr Collins also said it was important to acknowledge the “considerable achievements to date in stroke” in Ireland.
When the Irish Heart Foundation last ran the FAST campaign, it resulted in a 78% increase in the numbers getting into hospital in time
Commenting Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “the average stroke destroys two million brain cells every minute, so the quicker a patient gets to hospital after a stroke, literally the more of their brain can be saved.”
“When the Irish Heart Foundation last ran the FAST campaign, it resulted in a 78% increase in the numbers getting into hospital in time to receive potentially lifesaving treatment, which led to hundreds of extra lives being saved. Since then the development of the new clot retrieval treatment called thrombectomy which halves patients’ chances of dying from stroke means the difference FAST can make is bigger than ever. As a result, the Irish Heart Foundation has prioritised the development of a new campaign and is in the process of securing the funding to make it happen,” Mr Macey added.
To mark stroke awareness week which takes place next week (Monday 23 to Friday 27 April) the Irish Heart Foundation is hosting a National Stroke Survivors’ Day on Tuesday 24 April in Croke Park in Dublin from 10.30am to 4pm.
Hear from inspirational stroke survivors and carers as well as medical experts who will also be on hand throughout the day to answer questions. Topics to be discussed include aphasia, returning to work, fatigue management, relationships after stroke, diet, secondary prevention of stroke, stress management and mindfulness.