The Department of Health is to launch an advertising and marketing campaign in the new year that is aimed at helping people recognise the symptoms of stroke.
Starting in February, the three-year, £12 million campaign will use adverts, films, posters and leaflets to inform the public about the importance of identifying the early symptoms of stroke and seeking prompt emergency treatment.
It will promote the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call 999) test, which involves looking for facial weakness, such as whether the person can smile, or their mouth or an eye has drooped, checking whether the person can raise both arms, and looking for difficulties in speaking or understanding speech.
Stroke is the UK's third leading cause of death, claiming more than 67,000 lives a year. It is also the single largest cause of adult disability in England.
Symptoms include numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (such as a drooping arm, leg or lower eyelid, or a dribbling mouth), slurred speech or difficulty finding words or understanding what is being said.
Other symptoms are blurred vision or loss of sight, confusion or unsteadiness or a severe headache.
"I think this is the best thing that could happen – the visual media has the ability to reach the general public rather than literacy and all of the messages about smoking, date rape, child abuse and substance misuse are all hard hitting and excellent in their presentation and delivery. What often changes a person's lifestyle is the GP saying, 'If you dont reduce your weight or do some exercise you are at risk of ...' and that can be life changing for people. My mum experienced a stroke and called me the night before to ask me something – it was all quite strange – about how to spell a name and asking where it was we were due to meet. This was not like my mum and that night she had a severe stroke and another the next day, leaving her paralysed with dysphasia for the next 8 years. Had I been able to recognise that this behaviour may have been a potential indicator, I would have taken it more seriously and attended A&E with her. On reflection, I wish I had written a book about how my mum's stroke affected her, her immediate and wider family and how we supported and cared for her to have a good quality lifestyle. She was an inspiration to me and many others who supported her, but it was a difficult life at times." - Kaye Iveson, Yorkshire