Stroke is one of the UK’s biggest killers and the leading cause of severe adult disability. Estimates show that each stroke costs the NHS thousands of pounds and accounts for around 20% of all acute hospital and 25% of long-term beds.
In order to improve patient health and balance the books, we at the NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG set about trying to change the way people think about stroke.
We worked with the local bus companies and the Stroke Association to offer free blood pressure checks, a quick chat about diet and lifestyle and information on identifying the signs of stroke through the FAST test. We supported this through advertising and using the local media.
With an investment of £14,000, we raised awareness of someone having a stroke by 10% amongst our local population, targeted hard to reach groups and nearly half the people we checked were referred to a GP for follow up because they had raised blood pressure.
What we did
Some areas of Redditch are in the top 2% of the most deprived populations in the country and we were aware that raised blood pressure was a big problem – causing about 50% of all strokes.
From 19 November 2012 to 16 December 2012, we ran adverts on the back and inside of buses and organised three awareness days in town centres.
Each GP practice received a briefing pack with information and materials encouraging them to take part in the campaign and to share information with their patients. These included leaflets and details of the local awareness days as well as the opportunity to screen patients during their consultations.
We commissioned market research, which found that awareness of the four elements of the FAST test had increased by 7%-10%. Of the 200 adults interviewed, 39% remembered seeing the campaign in the last month, 5% of whom were able to recall that raised blood pressure was the biggest risk factor for stroke. Estimates show that 54% of the population were reached by bus advertising an average of 2.8 times.
Blood pressure checks were carried out for 101 people, 48% of whom were required follow up with their GP because they registered 140 over 90mmHg or above.
Raised blood pressure can be described as a ‘silent killer’ because many people affected do not know they are at risk.
Working class, working age men who are at particular risk in our area can be hard to reach with health promotion messages and may be less willing to attend a GP surgery. Most of our local GP surgeries have a blood pressure machine in their waiting room and patients can access these.
We targeted the bus service because many of their passengers fall in D2/E demographic groups and shopping centres because they reach a wide spectrum of the community.
We aim to keep the good work up with a fresh campaign in March to coincide with a new round of the Government’s FAST campaign.
If we have prevented one stroke through this awareness work we will have off set our investment in the project and improved patient outcomes through increased awareness.
Richard Davies is assistant clinical chair of NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, which represents 22 GP practices with a combined registered population of 170,000 patients.
Tomorrow, this project will win the Professional Excellence Award in the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards, which have been judged by Pulse http://www.stroke.org.uk/LASA