THE Stroke Association is revealing a concerning new trend: the most at-risk groups are least likely to call 999 due to not wanting to “burden the already busy emergency services”, which is causing people to die at home.

Each year around 7,400 people will have a stroke in Wales and the risk of stroke increases with age. Despite reminders that the health service is “open for business”, new survey results released today on behalf of the Stroke Association has found that over 65s are most likely to put off calling 999 for non-COVID life-threatening conditions. They report the main reason is not wanting to “burden the already busy emergency services”. The charity warns that you mustn’t ‘keep calm and carry on’, you need to act FAST and call 999.

During the COVID pandemic, emergency department attendance in Wales is down by over a third from the same time last year. The Office for National Statistics(ii) has reported that deaths at home attributed to stroke during the COVID period are much higher than the previous five-year average. This means that there are many more preventable deaths at home, potentially happening with frightened families around.

The Stroke Association, the UK’s leading stroke charity, wants everyone to know that when you see the signs of a stroke, call 999 straight away.

Signs of stroke (a FAST test):

Face – Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
Arms – Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
Time – If you see any single one of these signs, it’s time to call 999

The research studies involved data:

Taken from the latest stats from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on excess non-COVID deaths. (England and Wales) and

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Stats Wales: Number of attendances in NHS Wales accident and emergency departments by age band, sex and site (May 2020 vs May 2019) https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Health-and-Social-Care/NHS-Hospital-Waiting-Times/Accident-and-Emergency/accidentemergencyattendances-by-age-sex-site

The key revelations are:

ONS report deaths at home have risen 54% higher based on the rolling five-year average. (Office for National Statistics);

Emergency department attendance in Wales are down 36% from what is expected at this time of year (May 2019 vs May 2020, Stats Wales);

Over a third (35%) of older people (65+) said they were less likely to contact emergency services with non-COVID symptoms due to the pandemic. (Eden Stanley research conducted May 2020, released 02 July 2020); and

51% of older people (65+) stated they didn’t want to “burden already busy emergency services” as the reason for not attending hospital. (Eden Stanley, ibid) despite this age group being at the greatest risk of stroke.

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