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‘Stiff upper lip’ causing preventable stroke deaths in Wales

The Stroke Association is revealing a concerning new trend: the most at risk groups are least likely to call 999 due to not wanting to “burden the already busy emergency services”, which is causing people to die at home.

Each year around 7,400 people will have a stroke in Wales and the risk of stroke increases with age. Despite reminders that the health service is “open for business”,new survey results released today on behalf of the Stroke Association has found that over 65s are most likely to put off calling 999 for non-Covid life threatening conditions. They report the main reason is not wanting to “burden the already busy emergency services”. The charity warns that you mustn’t ‘keep calm and carry on’, you need to act FAST and call 999.

During the Covid pandemic, emergency department attendance in Wales is down by over a third from the same time last year (iii). The Office for National Statistics has reported that deaths at home attributed to stroke during the Covid period are much higher than the previous five year average. This means that there are many more preventable deaths at home, potentially happening with frightened family around..

The Stroke Association, the UK’s leading stroke charity, wants everyone to know that when you see the signs of stroke, call 999 straight away.

Professor Martin James – Clinical Director of the King’s College London Stroke Programme and Consultant Stroke, and a Trustee of the Stroke Association, said:

“On my acute stroke unit and across the country stroke specialists have seen striking reductions in the number of people coming into hospital with the symptoms of stroke during the Covid pandemic. But our hospitals remain well equipped and ready to treat stroke patients safely and so we would say to the Great British public,despite everything else that is going on, stroke is still a medical emergency.”

Juliet Bouverie – Chief Executive, Stroke Association

“Stoicism kills and ‘keep calm and carry on’ doesn’t save lives. It’s really worrying to see that the people most at risk of stroke are most likely to die at home because they were too frightened of bothering the emergency services – your life matters. Stroke is a brain attack. When you see the signs of stroke, you need to raise the alarm right away by calling 999.”

Signs of stroke (FAST test)

  • Face – Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
  • Arms – Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
  • Time – If you see any single one of these signs, it’s time to call 999