Falkirk councillors agree to back stroke awareness campaign

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A Falkirk councillor was praised for his bravery as he spoke publicly about the death of his father, in a bid to make a change “that will save lives”.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Falkirk Council unanimously backed Councillor James Bundy’s call to urge the Scottish Government to change its messaging on stroke awareness.

He told members: “Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In the hope of saving lives, governments around the world are investing huge sums of money to raise awareness of stroke symptoms – but we need to get the messaging right.”

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Councillor Bundy spoke at the end of a seven-hour long meeting, admitting it was “a long wait for a speech that I’m dreading to give”.

Councillor James Bundy and his father Tony. Picture: ContributedCouncillor James Bundy and his father Tony. Picture: Contributed
Councillor James Bundy and his father Tony. Picture: Contributed

He told the meeting that in Scotland and the UK, the FAST stroke awareness campaign (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) – does not accomodate all of the symptoms of stroke, as the loss of his father showed all too clearly.

He said: “My father, Anthony James Bundy, suffered a fatal stroke earlier this year. When it started, his face and arms were unaffected and his speech was not slurred. Because of this, my father passed the FAST test. The cruel irony of this is that by passing test, my dad was denied fast treatment – treatment that could have saved his life.

“I believe that by incorporating more symptoms of stroke in our public health messaging we can save lives.”

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He told the council that while the rest of the UK have had recent public health campaigns, in the past three years, Scotland has not had a publicly funded stroke awareness campaign. But, he added, he did not want Scotland “simply playing catch-up”.

Mr Bundy said: “I want us to be leading the way and Scotland has an opportunity to do this with stroke awareness. By turning FAST into BE FAST, I believe we can lead the way in Britain.

“Before the Scottish Government funds a stroke public health campaign, it is right if we can add other symptoms of stroke to FAST. Let’s learn from the USA, Canada and India – all of these nations use BE FAST.

“B stands for Balance, E stands for Eyes, F stands for Face, A for Arms, S stands for Speech and T stands for throwing up. And together, the acronym reminds us that if we suspect a stroke, we must be fast.”

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“When my father’s stroke started, he lost his balance, his eyes were struggling to focus, he was throwing up and his speech was slow. My father passed the FAST test. He would have failed a BE FAST test. He then would have been sent for a scan, highlighting the clot. Treatment then could have begun – treatment that could have saved his life.”

Mr Bundy said that his father’s case “is not unique” with around ten per cent of ischaemic strokes strokes affecting the base of the brain, leading to the different symptoms.

He also highlighted a petition his family has started to call for a review of the FAST stroke campaign, which several councillors promised to share.

He added: “With a review, lives could be saved.”

He finished with a direct plea: “Provost, I miss my dad every day. He was only 53 years old, he loved my mum, he loved his children, he loved his grandchildren. He had just started a business – a long dream of his. He had so much to look forward to in life.

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“In this time of sadness, it would be easy for me and my family to stay silent – but this would be letting my dad down. He was a man who sought justice – who sought to do the right thing.

“Here, the right thing to do is clear. It is to honour my father’s memory by making the changes needed to save lives.”

Provost Robert Bissett commended Mr Bundy and his family for the campaign and he happily seconded the motion.

The council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, said the SNP group was happy to support the motion and would also raise the issue with her contacts in the ambulance service.

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Labour group Councillor Anne Hannah said: “All our hearts go out to Councillor Bundy and his family. He and his whole family have done an excellent job of raising the issue at a time when it must be difficult to do so.”

Several councillors said their own families had been affected by strokes, including the Conservative leader, James Kerr, who said it had been “a very brave statement”.

The council leader will now write to the Scottish Government asking them to pledge to finance the public health awareness campaign as set out in the national stroke improvement plan.

They will also ask Public Health Scotland to conduct a review into the “FAST” stroke public health campaign to see if there is a way to incorporate all the different symptoms of stroke whilst re-emphasising the importance of quick treatment.