When you call 999, you should tell the ambulance service that you suspect the person is having a stroke.
The ambulance service will then treat this case as 'category A', which means this is an immediate life-threatening condition. The target time for responding to category A calls is 8 minutes, so you can expect the ambulance to arrive within this time.
The ambulance staff will assess the patient and test them for symptoms of a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack). Most ambulance staff use the FAST test to assess patients for signs of a stroke. Some ambulance services also use the ROSIER test.
The ambulance service will also telephone the hospital emergency department to advise them of their arrival time. The emergency department will then be ready to start investigations and treatment as soon as possible. The ambulance team will endeavour to get you to the hospital emergency department within one hour.
Why is this important?
A speedy response can help to reduce the damage to a person's brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.
What you can expect
These are the standards that you should expect:
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Quality Standard for Stroke
People seen by ambulance staff outside hospital, who have sudden onset of neurological symptoms, are screened using a validated tool to diagnose stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
Those people with persisting neurological symptoms who screen positive using a validated tool, in whom hypoglycaemia has been excluded, and who have a possible diagnosis of stroke are transferred to a specialist acute stroke unit within 1 hour.
What this means for you:
- When a 999 call is made to the local ambulance service, the ambulance crew that arrives to take you to hospital will assess you and decide whether it is likely that you have had a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack). This is not a diagnosis but will help ensure that you receive immediate care at the hospital to ensure the best possible outcomes.
- The ambulance crew will phone ahead so the hospital can prepare.
- On arrival at hospital, staff with specialist skills in managing strokes will undertake a full assessment.
- If you have had a stroke or mini-stroke, then you can be transferred to a specialist stroke unit as quickly as possible.
There is comparative data on the proportion of patients assessed as probably having had a stroke and the proportion of these who arrive at hospital within 1 hour of the call for a 999 ambulance.