Stroke survivors and their ‘savers’ call on people to act F.A.S.T. as part of NHS campaign

Patients who have survived a stroke are joining forces with their ‘savers’ and the NHS to encourage people to act F.A.S.T. and call 999 if they have symptoms of a stroke.

The call is part of an NHS campaign to increase public awareness of the signs of stroke- also known as a ‘brain attack’ -after new findings show one in five people are not confident, they could recognise the typical signs.

The F.A.S.T. acronym aims to remind people that the key signs of stroke are a face that has fallen on one side (F), arm weakness (A) and slurred speech (S) – which indicate that it’s time (T) to call 999.

A survey found that 59% of adults in England were not aware that stroke is the fourth highest cause of death in the UK and two fifths (39%) of those surveyed did not recognise stroke as a medical emergency that requires urgent attention.

The NHS has been reminding the public to get help by calling 999 in a life-threatening emergency, such as stroke, or going to NHS 111 online as the first port of call for non-urgent health needs.

Today, moving photographic portraits of stroke survivors, alongside their stroke ‘savers’, will be unveiled, showing significant life moments they have been able to celebrate since their stroke – from a father being able to walk his daughter down the aisle to a husband and wife reaching their Diamond Anniversary milestone.

TV Chef Brian Turner CBE and Radio Presenter Mark Goodier are among those taking part, both having survived strokes thanks to others who spotted the signs and acted fast to call an NHS ambulance.

The portraits – taken by renowned Getty Images Photographers, Chris Jackson and Jeff Spicer -are part of the relaunched ‘Help Us, Help You’ Act F.A.S.T. campaign, supported by the Stroke Association, which highlights that stroke is a medical emergency and urges the public to call 999 if they notice any signs of a stroke in themselves or others.

Around 100,000 people have a stroke each year in England, Scotland and Wales, which is approximately one stroke every five minutes, with around 33,000 stroke-related deaths in 2021 alone. Early recognition of stroke symptoms can give patients extra precious minutes, enabling faster access to specialist treatment and increasing the chances of a better outcome.

Dr Deb Lowe, the NHS National Clinical Director for Stroke, said: “It’s very concerning that so many people might not realise that stroke is a medical emergency and that even less people say they don’t feel confident they could recognise if someone was having a stroke. That’s why we are running this campaign, to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke and encouraging anyone who notices them not to delay calling 999.”

Some other signs that may be due to a stroke or mini stroke include:

  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your body (including in your leg)
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion
  • Sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other signs

Call 999 immediately if you notice any single one of the signs of stroke

Celebrity Radio Presenter Mark Goodier: “Having a stroke came as a complete surprise and being unable to speak was frightening. My wife being there to spot the signs of my stroke so quickly undoubtedly changed my life. Within minutes we got help and, due to the excellent treatment I received at my local hospital stroke unit, I’m lucky to have made a very good recovery and I’m now back on the radio doing what I love.”

NHS ambulance paramedics are trained in stroke, so ensure anyone having one, receives emergency medical care and specialist treatment, when responding to 999 callouts.

TV Chef Brian Turner CBE: “I’m so grateful to my agent Louise for spotting I was experiencing a stroke and getting me help. I can’t emphasise enough how vital it is to call 999 when you notice any of the signs of a stroke. Thanks to her, I was able to receive medical attention quickly, meaning I’m now back on my feet and helping the next generation of young chefs into the kitchen.”

There are three different types of stroke:

  • Ischaemic stroke – caused by a blockage cutting off the blood supply to the brain
  • Haemorrhagic stroke – caused by bleeding in or around the brain
  • Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – also known as a mini-stroke, where a blockage temporarily stops blood getting to the brain

Juliet Bouverie OBE, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “Stroke is when a blockage or a bleed stops blood getting to your brain and your brain starts to die. We know that despite its debilitating and deadly consequences, strokes are still largely misunderstood. Stroke is a medical emergency and time lost is brain lost. This is why it’s incredibly important that you act FAST. It is our responsibility to know the signs and be on the lookout for stroke. Acting FAST saves lives. We’ve seen impressive results from previous Act FAST campaigns. This one little thing could save a life.”

Commenting on the impact of a stroke, and the need for more public awareness of their signs. Health Minister Helen Whately said: “Strokes can be sudden and devastating, and they are the fourth highest cause of death in the UK.

“Quickly recognising the key symptoms is vital, and this NHS campaign has the potential to save lives and improve outcomes for survivors by raising awareness of the signs.

“It is essential that people act fast and call 999 in a life-threatening emergency, like a stroke, ensuring people can spend more precious moments with their loved ones.”

To see the photographic portraits, visit NHS England Act FAST. For more information on stroke visit the NHS website.