Stroke Campaign for Western Isles

The ‘FAST’ (the Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call 999) campaign is aimed at promoting awareness of the symptoms of stroke; a condition that affects approximately 80 residents in the Western Isles every year.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in Scotland after heart disease and cancer. It claims the lives of one in eight women and one in 10 men and leaves thousands more with some form of permanent disability.

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 (CHSS) ‘FAST’ (the Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call 999) test.

The FAST message was developed by leading stroke physicians and focuses on how an attack affects the face, arms and speech. The ‘T’ represents time to call the emergency services.

To spot the signs of a stroke, just remember the word FAST, where

F stands for FACE. Can the person smile normally? Does their mouth droop?
A is for ARM. Can they lift both arms normally?
S is for SPEECH. Can they speak clearly? and
T is for TIME. Time to call 999 if any of these signs are present.

Together, NHS Western Isles and CHSS launched the FAST campaign in the Western Isles on Monday March 11 2013, linking in with a local stroke group to help raise awareness. The campaign highlights that stroke is a brain attack. You can’t see the damage it causes but emergency treatment can make all the difference to your chances of making the best possible recovery.

The campaign, which was launched at the Grianan Centre in Stornoway was attended by the Chief Executives from both NHS Western Isles and CHSS, as well as by members of the ‘Monday Club’, which is a local support group for people who have had a stroke. A simultaneous launch took place in the Uists.

The FAST test 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.

CHSS Western Isles Coordinator Sue Hill said: “If a person has failed any of the ‘FAST’ 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.”

Stroke can happen at any age

Through the campaign, NHS Western Isles and CHSS are also highlighting the fact that stroke is not just something that happens to older people. Approximately one in four of the people who have a stroke are under 65 so it’s not just a disease of old age. Of the 12,000 strokes that will happen throughout Scotland this year, around 1,000 will be people under 55, and 100 of them will be under the age of 30.

Coming to terms with having a stroke is something that many younger people have difficulty with. They may have never been ill previously or had any risk factors for stroke.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “There has been a huge change in attitude to stroke in recent years with a growing understanding that it should be treated with the same sort of urgency as a heart attack, because rapid treatment can make a huge difference to the odds of surviving or being left with some form of long term disability. That is why NHS Western Isles has teamed up with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland to raise awareness of the FAST campaign. Remember, think FAST and you could save a life!”

David Clark, Chief Executive, CHSS, is keen to raise public awareness of the symptoms of a stroke and the need to seek help urgently. He said: “Stroke can happen to anyone at any age. The FAST campaign highlights that stroke is a medical emergency. You can’t see the damage it causes but emergency treatment can make all the difference to your chances of making the best possible recovery.”

Posters, wallet cards and other promotional materials were circulated throughout the Western Isles and Isles FM will be running an awareness campaign throughout the week, from Monday to Saturday. Pharmacies and GPs were also asked to target those receiving statins, warfarin, digoxin, blood pressure tablets and aspirin and the cards can then be stored in patients’ wallets.

For more information visit Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland at