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New drive to recognise and treat mini-strokes quicker

Quarter of TIA cases missed by clinicians

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 01 May 2014

Thousands of people are risking having a stroke by failing to recognise and seek help for transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as mini-strokes, according to report published today.

Charity the Stroke Association has published a report Not just a funny turn to raise awareness of what it calls an underestimated problem.

Around 46,000 people have their first mini-stroke every year in the UK and if they were treated in time, around 10,000 strokes could be prevented each year, saving more than 3,000 lives and saving the NHS and care services around £200m.

The report, which is supported by Legal & General, is based on a UK-wide survey of 670 people who had a mini-stroke in the past five years.

It found that more than a third of people (37%) having a mini-stroke thought it was a “funny turn”, only 22% who experienced symptoms of a mini-stroke rang 999, almost half of people (47%) said the symptoms did not feel like an emergency, and 20% went on to have a major stroke.

Due to the lack of public awareness around TIA, people who sought medical attention did so in various ways, the majority (29%) making an appointment with their GP, while 25% went to A&E, 23% rang 999, and 8% rang an NHS helpline.

The survey also revealed that a quarter of people said that healthcare professionals had not recognised the symptoms as that of a mini-stroke, while 23% were given no information or advice about changes they needed to make to their lifestyle to prevent a stroke.

The charity has called for better awareness amongst the public of the passing symptoms of mini-stroke and for professionals in health and social care, including GP receptionists, hospital registrars and health visitors, to recognise the signs of mini-stroke and the importance of rapid referral to specialist assessment and treatment.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “There’s nothing small about mini-stroke. It’s a medical emergency. Urgently investigating and treating people who have a TIA or minor stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80%.”

President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Clifford Mann welcomed the report, saying: “Today’s report is vital to increasing awareness of TIA as a medical emergency and ensuring professionals continue to make swift referrals to enable timely investigation and treatment. It is crucial that the public are made more aware of the signs of a mini-stroke however mild.”

Professor Tony Rudd, chair of the Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party said: “It is vital that the public are more aware of the importance of recognising the symptoms of TIA and getting urgent attention.

“Services for TIA have improved radically over recent years and most hospitals are now running daily clinics. We just need to make sure that patients respond quickly and then the frontline professionals make the appropriate referral.”

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