A FAST-TRACKED app is helping staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital treat stroke patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes as the NHS has urged those experiencing suspected stroke symptoms to seek urgent medical help despite the ongoing pandemic.

Doctors fear the crisis has put people off seeking stroke care, with new statistics due to be published on A&E attendances in April.

The same data in March showed A&E visits dropped by nearly a third compared with a year ago.

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Despite the pandemic pressures, the health service is developing new AI (artificial intelligence) technology to speed up treatment for the life-threatening condition.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust is leading the way after it fast-tracked the use of an app which speeds up the relaying of brain scans to physicians using AI, allowing them to make quicker decisions on treatment.

As a result, the trust has processed over 150 scans using the new app since the beginning of March 2020.

Consultant stroke physician and geriatrician at the Royal Berkshire Hospital Dr Kiruba Nagaratnam said: "This work has revolutionised the way we traditionally reviewed scans and made treatment decisions when we are on call.

"We have already used this to refer patients for life changing thrombectomy surgery on weekends with decisions made remotely," she added.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "It's absolutely vital people anyone experiencing symptoms of a stroke seeks urgent medical assistance, and the Fast campaign continues to lives.

"The NHS has faced an unprecedented challenge during this pandemic and it's hugely impressive to see Trusts continuing to improve patient care through innovation.

"Bringing the benefits of technology to patients and staff is more important than ever, and we are investing in making the NHS a world leader in saving lives through artificial intelligence."

The campaign Help Us Help You, NHS England has warned anyone who notices signs of a stroke, including drooping of the face at one side, an inability to hold up both arms, and slurred speech, to "act Fast" and call an ambulance immediately.

The acronym FAST is an easy way to remember the key indicators, with the letters standing for face, arms, speech, and time, as stroke victims require rapid medical attention for the best chance of recovery.