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Rise in stroke-related 999 calls

More people are dialling 999 when they suspect a stroke following a campaign to highlight key symptoms, the Government has said.

The Act FAST stroke campaign is intended to show how emergency treatment can reduce the risk of death and disability from stroke, which affects around 150,000 people in the UK every year.

Last April and May, after the adverts finished running, the NHS in England saw a 24% rise in stroke-related 999 calls, to 229,974. The Department of Health said there was also a 16% rise in stroke sufferers being seen more quickly.

Introduced under Labour in 2009, the campaign has run on an annual basis, with new adverts planned to run from the end of this month to March 25.

After the first 2009 campaign, there was a 16% rise in 999 calls, followed by a 20% rise in 2010.

The campaign urges people to look out for the following signs and call 999 if they spot a single one: 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 for an ambulance if any one of these signs occurs.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Stroke is the third leading cause of death in England each year and the leading cause of disability. The Act Fast campaign has proved it works and we are confident the Act Fast campaign will once again have a very positive impact for people suffering from stroke.

"Treatment for stroke is improving all the time, the majority of patients are being taken to specialist stroke units and latest figures show 83% see a stroke consultant within 24 hours. However, we are not complacent and are clear that more can be done to improve results for patients."

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: "A stroke is caused by a blockage or a bleed in the brain, which cuts off the brain's flow of oxygen and causes brain cells to die. Some people may be able to receive clot-busting treatments which can quickly restore the flow of blood to the brain and significantly reduce the amount of brain damage.

"Recognising the symptoms of stroke and acting quickly is therefore absolutely vital. We're for life after stroke and we know that these adverts save lives."

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