Since the outbreak of coronavirus hospitals both in Greater Manchester and across the country have seen a worrying fall in the number of people going to hospital with stroke symptoms.
In the final week of April across Greater Manchester, 30 per cent fewer people were being assessed with stroke-like-symptoms in the region’s specialist stroke unit emergency departments. There was a similar 50 per cent fall in the number of people being referred by their GP to a specialist after having mini-stroke symptoms (a transient ischemic attack).
Dr Jane Molloy, The Greater Manchester Stroke Operational Delivery Network clinical lead said:
“It is vital that anyone with stroke related symptoms act as quickly as possible – doing so could prevent disability or even death.
“It is understandable at this time that people are worried about seeking help but be assured the NHS in Greater Manchester is still here for you at this time. Both GPs and hospital want to see you if you need help, we have measures in place to protect you from coronavirus, and the quicker you act the better.
“Please, if you think a loved one is having a stroke call 999. Even short-lasting stroke symptoms, also known as mini-strokes or transient ischaemic attacks, can be an important warning. These may only last a few minutes, but it is still essential you contact your GP for treatment and referral. Mini-strokes significantly increase the risk of a major stroke, so don’t just dismiss symptoms as a ‘funny-turn’”.
Dr Khalil Kawafi, Stroke Director at Fairfield General Hospital and strategic clinical network lead across Greater Manchester said:
“The COVID pandemic has led to a reduction in stroke activity in units across the Greater Manchester region and also across the country. If a stroke patient presents early enough, ideally within four and a half hours of their stroke onset, then we have a much better chance of giving the right treatment to stop a stroke in its tracks, often saving lives and preventing life changing disabilities.
“The message we want to send out to the public is that we’re here for you. If you have arm or leg weakness, or difficulties with your speech then please act FAST and ring 999 and call for an ambulance as soon as the symptoms develop, because this way you maximise your chance of receiving lifesaving treatment.”
Stroke units remain open across the city-region and have been set up to minimise exposure to coronavirus. If somebody suffers a stroke, being admitted to a specialist unit could save their life.
If a GP sees a patient following a transient ischaemic attack, they are referred to one of several rapid access services across Greater Manchester – many of which offer phone consultations.
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:
Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in 1 arm.
Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
The Greater Manchester Stroke Operational Delivery Network has produced a short video with stroke survivor Lucy to urge people to act F.A.S.T if they experience stroke symptoms or if they recognise them in someone else.