- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
A local AM has teamed up with the Stroke Association, Carmarthenshire Council and Hywel Dda Health Board to see how stroke is being tackled in Carmarthenshire.
Stroke campaigner Joyce Watson AM and the Stroke Association is today (Tuesday 16 August 2011) looking at stroke prevention and service development in Carmarthenshire.
Stroke Association staff are testing the blood pressure of refuse workers and depot staff at the Cillefwr Depot, Johnstown, Carmarthen, to check if they are at risk of stroke.
Mrs Watson will then visit Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen to tour the hospital from the perspective of the stroke patient and visit the Stroke Association’s health improvement project.
Joyce Watson AM said:
“Stroke is the UK’s third biggest killer and nearly a quarter of the population are suffering from undiagnosed high blood pressure – the single biggest risk factor for stroke. Over 500 people a year attend hospital with a stroke in Carmarthenshire.
“Two years ago I teamed up with the Stroke Association and Community Pharmacy Wales to test the blood pressure of 1,000 people across mid and west Wales, including Carmarthenshire Council’s main office and at the Carmarthen Journal offices. The results were shocking. Over a third either had high blood pressure and were advised to contact their GP or had borderline ratings – these are people who are walking around unaware that they are at risk of stroke. Strokes can kill people or lead to serious disability, yet they can be prevented.”
“I am delighted that we will be offering blood pressure testing to the council’s refuse workers. It is often the case that men are less willing to go to their GP to report illness, so I hope we may be able to help some people identify a potential risk and tackle it in time. There are simple actions which can minimise the risk of stroke, once that risk is known. Also, many pharmacies are able to offer blood pressure testing without patients having to go to their GPs.
“I am also pleased to be updated on the important work being done at Glangwili Hospital. The steps taken in the aftermath of a stroke can have a huge affect on the future wellbeing of the patient and their families and we must all work together to offer the best services available at this difficult time.”
Lowri Griffiths, Head of Communication and External Affairs in Wales for The Stroke Association said:
“We are absolutely delighted that Joyce Watson is campaigning to raise awareness about the impact that stroke can have. At the Stroke Association we meet people on a daily basis who are coming to terms with the impact that stroke has had on their lives. By working with organisations such as Carmarthenshire County Council we can carry out awareness days which highlight the link between high blood pressure and also a lesser known condition called Atrial Fibrillation and stroke. There is much we can do to reduce the risk of having a stroke and if we can raise awareness about the steps that can be taken to reduce the number of strokes which happen in the first place then we can stop the untold misery that happens to the 11,000 people who have a stroke each year in Wales”.
Cllr Pat Jones, Carmarthenshire Council Executive Board Member for Health and Social Care, said: “An organisation as large and diverse as a local authority relies on a strong and healthy workforce to keep things ticking. As we all know, prevention is better than cure, and anything we can do to help the council’s staff keep healthy and fit for work is well worth it.”
Jeremy Griffith , Assistant General Manager of Unscheduled Care Carmarthenshire, Hywel Dda Health Board said: ” Every year over 500 people in Carmarthenshire attend hospital with a stroke. Improving stroke services and the stroke treatment our patients receive is a key priority for Hywel Dda Health Board. In the last year we have established our response to an acute stroke so that stroke sufferers across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire can receive round the clock access to vital clot-busting treatment following a stroke close to home.
“Thrombolysis intervention is one of the most promising treatments we can provide for an acute ischaemic stroke but how fast it is delivered is absolutely vital. The outcome of thrombolysis is much better if given to the patient within the first three hours following a stroke. Between three to five hours after there may be a small benefit but the sooner the better.”
The majority of strokes are due to the blockage of an artery in the brain by a blood clot, and thrombolysis works by quickly restoring blood-flow to the brain, helping to reduce lasting disabilities.
However, the treatment must be administered within 3 hours of the stroke and patients must meet certain criteria to minimise side effects. This is why it is essential to act FAST if you suspect a loved one has suffered a stroke.
Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
If yes to any of the above, don’t delay:
Time to call 999
Joyce Watson AM added:
“The impact of a stroke is devastating. In just a few seconds, a person’s life and that of their loved ones can be changed forever.
“We will nearly all be affected to some degree by stroke, through relatives and friends, yet simple steps can be taken to prevent it, and much more can be done to aid recovery.
“The facts are plain: 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke every year. Of those, about a third are likely to die within the first 10 days, about a third are likely to make a recovery within one month and about a third are likely to be left disabled and needing rehabilitation.
“Stroke is the leading cause of severe disability and the third biggest killer in the UK after cancer and heart disease.
“Most experts agree that this condition has suffered from a lack of attention and resources.
“I was pleased when the First Minister recently gave me a commitments to support stroke services across Wales, and to encourage workplace testing.
“A lot of good work is happening in the diagnosis and acute treatment of stroke but there is still work to do.
“I have campaigned since I was first elected for better stroke services in the community. For example, the excellent stroke survivor rehabilitation services provided by the Stroke Association here in Carmarthenshire are not universally available, yet they make a massive difference to these people’s lives.
“Some patients are waiting too long for NHS speech and language therapy and crucially, more needs to be done on the prevention side.”
In Assembly Questions on Tuesday (28 June), Mrs Watson asked how the Welsh Government might encourage employers to offer simple blood pressure tests to employees.
First Minister Carwyn Jones responded, saying:
“Through our Ask First stroke campaign, we have ensured that 14 large employers in our Healthy Working Wales network hold blood pressure and pulse testing events in their workplaces, in partnership with the Stroke Association.”
The Labour AM welcomed the government initiative but said she wanted to see more employers and small businesses offer the health checks:
“High blood pressure can be easy to overlook because it is often symptomless – until there is a problem.
“Bringing simple tests to the workplace is a very cost effective way of combatting stroke, which devastates thousands of families in Wales every year.”
For more information contact Joyce Watson’s office on 02920 898972 or on www.joycewatson.co.uk.