Think FAST to save a life

Every year, approximately 80 residents in the Western Isles will have a stroke; so it’s vitally important that people can recognise the symptoms of a stroke and take prompt action.

Thankfully in the Western Isles, there is growing evidence that people are now able to recognise a stroke when it’s happening.

This is as a result of campaigns like Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland’s ‘FAST’ test.

NHS Western Isles’ Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke Managed Clinical Network supports and regularly raises awareness of FAST - the Face Arm Speech Test - which is aimed at members of the public and is also used by paramedics to diagnose stroke prior to a person being admitted to hospital.

By diagnosing the possibility of stroke before reaching hospital, it is possible for appropriate referral to a stroke unit to be made as quickly as possible.

Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke Managed Clinical Network Coordinator Pat Welsh said: “The FAST campaign is ongoing in the Western Isles and it is heartening to note that our medical and nursing staff use this model.

“The Scottish Ambulance service can be the first on the scene and paramedics in the Western Isles have reported that they use the FAST test all the time when attending suspected strokes.

“Many have also reported that when they attend the scene, carers or relatives are able to tell them the person has had a stroke.

“The paramedics feel this is due to publicity and awareness raising of FAST.

“The fact that relatives have acted quickly in dialling 999, could mean that the disability the stroke may cause has been lessened by early admission to hospital and treatment, such as Thrombolysis.”

What is FAST?

FAST requires an assessment of 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.

Ms Welsh added: “If a person has failed any of these tests it is crucial to call 999. Stroke is a medical emergency and by calling 999 you can help someone reach hospital quickly and receive the early treatment they need.

“Prompt action can prevent further damage to the brain and help someone make a full recovery. Delay can result in death or major long term disabilities, such as paralysis, severe memory loss and communication problems.”

Scots pharmacists are also joining the campaign to help people to recognise a stroke – and act ‘FAST’ to save lives.

From this week, posters will be displayed in the windows of over 1,200 pharmacies across Scotland to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Info cards, which alert people on what to watch out for and when to dial 999, will also be placed inside prescription bags for those receiving cardiovascular disease medication. The cards can then be stored in patients’ wallets.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Stroke has long played a part in the premature death of too many Scots. The more people who can recognise the warning signs, and act FAST to get help, the better. Having pharmacists involved and targeting those most at risk of stroke will help to save lives.

“Between 1995 and 2010, we’ve seen a 60 per cent cut in the number of deaths from stroke among under 75s – against a 50 per cent target - that’s a tremendous achievement and with increased awareness of the warning signs we can continue improve on this figure.”