FAST ambulances launch stroke awareness campaign

Monday, 01 June, 2009

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) is working to save lives and reduce long-term disability with the launch of an innovative stroke awareness campaign which will see front-line emergency vehicles doubling up as mobile billboards.

Six ambulances have been 'wrapped' in vibrant graphics, which promote the Department of Health and Stroke Association's FAST campaign messages - the vehicles will be operational in regional hot spots where strokes are prevalent and the risk of stroke is known to be high. SECAmb is the first ambulance Trust in the country to use this eye-catching technique to take vital health-care messages out on the road.

The vehicles were officially unveiled on National Stroke Awareness Day (May 12) as SECAmb launched its regional campaign which includes the deployment of more than 30 Stroke Champions. These Champions are staff members trained to educate the public about avoiding, recognising and dealing with stroke.

The devastating condition is the third leading cause of death and the single largest cause of disability in England. It causes around 67,000 deaths in the UK per year.

Facing this challenge head on, SECAmb was the first ambulance service to appoint a paramedic stroke lead and it has spearheaded a life-saving stroke development programme across Sussex, Surrey and Kent which the Stroke Association has praised as a 'beacon' of good practice.

The programme has included establishing a single stroke pathway which enables ambulance crews to FAST-track patients to specialist stroke units for thrombolysis (blood clot-busting) treatment. Around 80% of strokes are caused by a blood clot but thrombolysis has to be administered as early as possible within three hours of the onset of symptoms for the best possible outcome for the patient - by FAST-tracking patients to specialist care, SECAmb is dramatically reducing the effects of stroke. During the last two years, the pathway has been implemented in 19 acute stroke units across the region following partnership working with other Trusts and stroke networks

"Strokes devastate the lives of thousands of people across the South East every year," said Paul Sutton, SECAmb's Chief Executive. "Our work to improve outcomes for stroke patients is innovative and effective and underlines our commitment to the highest level of patient care."

SECAmb's regional campaign - the latest push in the development programme - has the backing of the Department of Health and the Stroke Association, with both organisations taking part in the official launch in Worthing, West Sussex, which is the region's second highest risk area for stroke.

Ian Golton, Director of the NHS Stroke Improvement Programme, who lead work nationally on improving stroke services on behalf of the Department of Health, said: "SECAmb's work is an example of how co-operation, knowing your local area and using imagination can prevent strokes and save lives. It's an example that will provide valuable lessons for the rest of the country"

Return to news menu