An awareness campaign has resulted in St John being called to more people suspected to be having a stroke for the second year.

The three-month FAST campaign, funded by the Ministry of Health and developed by the Health Promotion Agency and the Stroke Foundation, aimed to teach people to recognise the symptoms of a stroke.

During this year's campaign the number of suspected strokes recorded by St John rose from 160 to 196 per week - an increase of 22 per cent. The number of suspected strokes recorded peaked at 231 in one week.

The average number of ambulance call-outs to confirmed strokes each week rose from 45 before the campaign to 52 in July.


Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the first campaign, run last year, increased calls for suspected strokes by about 40 each week.

"This is all good news and it shows that as a result of the FAST campaigns more people recognise suspected strokes."

FAST stood for face, arm, speech and time and reminded people of the symptoms and the need to act quickly.

Changes to a person's face such as drooping, loss of arm strength and impaired speech were all symptoms of a stroke. The 'T' stood for the time to call 111 and reminded people it was important to call for help fast.

Coleman said each year in New Zealand about 9000 people had a stroke and early identification and treatment were crucial to reduce the likelihood of brain damage and lasting harm.

While not all the incidents reported turned out to be strokes, St John said it preferred people err on the side of caution and call 111 if they suspected a stroke.