FAST stroke campaign shows mixed results

FAST stroke campaign shows mixed results

The Face, Arms, Speech, Time (FAST) public health campaign designed to educate the British public about the symptoms of a stroke has demonstrated mixed results in a new study.

Researchers at the University of Oxford looked at data from 2,243 patients with first-time transient ischemic stroke (TIA) or minor stroke who sought medical attention between April 2002 and March 2014.

It was found that before FAST launched in 2009, 59 per cent of patients with major stroke used non-emergency services, but this rose to 79 per cent after people had seen the adverts.

First medical attention was obtained within three hours in almost 68 per cent of patients before FAST, and this rose to 81 per cent post-FAST.

However, 188 patients had a stroke within 90 days of their initial TIA or stroke - and half followed unheeded TIAs after which patients sought no medical attention at all.

Writing in the journal JAMA Neurology, lead study author Peter Rothwell explained that people may know the symptoms of a major stroke, but are still less aware of what to look for in TIAs - and that they can be precursors to a major stroke.

"In contrast to major stroke, extensive FAST-based public education has not improved the response to TIA and minor stroke in the United Kingdom, emphasising the need for campaigns that are tailored to transient and less severe symptoms," he added.

Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is cut off from a clot or blockage. There are around 32,000 stroke deaths in England each year.

TIAs or mini-strokes are caused by temporary disruptions to the brain's blood supply which eventually move, allowing blood flow to return to normal and symptoms to typically disappear.

FAST began in 2009 and runs annually. It has cost the government more than £10 million so far.