Stroke patients fail to seek urgent help

Exclusive Doubt over effectiveness of public health campaigns as more than half wait.

Less than half of all patients who suffer a TIA or minor stroke seek medical attention within three hours, despite public campaigns highlighting the importance of seeing a doctor as soon as possible.

The findings of a UK study appear to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the recent DoH adverts promoting the FAST test. The television and magazine adverts were introduced in February as part of a three-year campaign to raise stroke awareness.

The Stroke Association launched a similar awareness campaign in 2005 highlighting the FAST test. However, little research has been done on the impact of these campaigns on the behaviour of stroke patients.

This latest study, presented last week at the European Stroke Conference in Stockholm, examined delays in presenting with a TIA or minor stroke among a population of 91,000 people in Oxfordshire.

The study included 10 practices and 63 GPs and ran from April 2002 until March 2009. This allowed the researchers to look at delays in patients receiving care before and after the campaigns were introduced.

Overall, 624 patients went on to suffer a TIA, while 723 suffered a minor stroke. Among these, just 44 per cent presented to their GP within three hours of suffering the attack.

A total of 67 per cent of patients who suffered a TIA and 74 per cent of patients who suffered a minor stroke waited to seek attention within 24 hours.

The findings show the introduction of public awareness campaigns has failed to reduce the delays in seeking care.

Lead researcher Dr Nicola Paul, from the University of Oxford, said: 'It is likely that far more wide- reaching campaigns are needed.'

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