Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland and the British Heart Foundation have launched campaigns to remind people that, despite the COVID-19 emergency, they still must phone 999 immediately if they think they or a family member is having a stroke or heart attack.
The call comes following a worrying statement by interim Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith, that some hospital wards are “eerily quiet” amid the coronavirus outbreak.
There are real concerns that people are putting off going to hospital because of the virus, falsely thinking they would be a burden on the NHS during the outbreak. This is a misconception which can lead to devastating consequences, including loss of life.
Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland is urging people to act FAST and call 999 as soon as you experience symptoms. FAST is a simple acronym to remind people of the key signs of stroke:
FACE – Can the person smile, does one side of their face droop?
ARM – Can they lift both arms? Is one weak?
SPEECH – Is their speech slurred or muddled?
TIME – If these symptoms are present, call 999
Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive at Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, said:
“Stroke doesn’t stop because of coronavirus; it can happen at any time and anywhere.
“By the end of today, 25 people across Scotland will have suffered a stroke. The same will happen tomorrow.
“Coronavirus is at the forefront of our minds right now, but it's vital that people don’t forget that a stroke is a medical emergency. NHS staff are on-hand to help you and save people’s lives.
“It is important that people are aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke and phone 999 immediately if someone needs urgent medical attention."
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“The last thing people suspecting they have suffered a stroke should worry about is ’bothering’ emergency services and the NHS. Strokes and heart attacks remain priority services and systems are in place to treat them as always.
“Attendances at Accident and Emergency across Scotland have seen a large drop since the lockdown began and in England, the number of people presenting with heart attack symptoms has halved.
“Regardless of the pandemic, the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS are ready, willing and able as to save lives, including yours if need be. That is what they do!”
Stroke survivor Debbie Matthew said:
“If my husband hadn’t called 999 so quickly and I hadn’t gone to hospital straight away, I can’t bear to think about what would have happened to me.
“Hearing that people might not be seeking emergency help is terrifying. It’s more important now than ever to make sure people know to Think FAST and call 999 if you think you’re having a stroke or heart attack.”