NHS to use artificial intelligence to speed up stroke care and local people urged to ‘Act FAST’

People living on the Fylde coast have been urged not to delay seeking help if they have signs of having a stroke and to ‘Act FAST’ to help save lives.

NHS staff have been working together to ensure stroke care and urgent treatment can safely continue while responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

All hospital service providers across Lancashire and South Cumbria are looking to introduce artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted brain scans to speed up stroke treatment later this year.

AI for stroke imaging is being rolled out across the area following the success of mechanical thrombectomy, a procedure which removes a blood clot from a blood vessel which can prevent long-term disability as a result of a stroke.

The new AI tool will allow doctors to view patient scans remotely on an app so they can make better and faster decisions on the right treatment options for their patients. Early results show the tool has significantly increased the proportion of patients who have received timely and potentially life-saving treatment.

Clinicians are concerned that people are putting off getting help when they need it due to worries around COVID-19 and want to reassure them local services have been restructured to reduce the risk of infection in the hospital, such as splitting A&E services into COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 areas.

A new act FAST campaign was launched today (14 May) encouraging people to recognise the main signs of stroke and dial 999. A stroke is a serious life-threatening condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. A stroke often results in people being taken by ambulance to A&E for emergency treatment.

Dr Jim Gardner, medical director of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Trust fully supports any initiatives that promote the FAST campaign.

“We all know the sooner treatment is given to a patient after a stroke the better the outcomes for that patient.’’

Catherine Curley, stroke consultant nurse for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “If you or a loved one experience stroke symptoms, please help us help you: act FAST and call 999. Our expert paramedics, stroke nurses, radiologists and doctors will ensure you get the care you need as quickly as possible.”

The main signs of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:

  • Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred?
  • Time to call 999

Catherine added: “It’s really important to remember that the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.”

Jennifer Gardner, head of stroke support at the Stroke Association, said: “May is Stroke Awareness Month and we are using this opportunity to remind everyone that the NHS is still there for you if you suspect you, or someone close to you, is having a stroke.

“By acting FAST and getting access to world-class treatments that the NHS provides, you can help save lives. If you suspect that you, or someone you’re with, may be having a stroke don’t hesitate to seek medical help. Think FAST: Face, Arms, Speech – it’s time to call 999. The quicker you are diagnosed and treated for a stroke, the better your chances of making a good recovery. Now more than ever, during this pandemic we must remain focused on making and keeping stroke a priority for the UK.”

For information about stroke visit:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/

For information, if you have had a stroke and you’re worried about coronavirus visit:  https://www.stroke.org.uk/finding-support/information-coronavirus-stroke-survivors

For more information about the Stroke Association visit: https://www.stroke.org.uk

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