New NHS campaign urges people to dial 999 for suspected heart attack

The new NHS campaign runs from 14 February to 31 March.

The NHS has launched a campaign to encourage people to dial 999 when they are having early signs of a heart attack, believing that greater awareness of the early signs could save thousands of lives.

The new campaign, which runs from February 14 to March 31, tells people to take action if they experience common early symptoms such as sweating, uneasiness and chest tightness.

Shortness of breath , feeling sick or being sick and coughing can also be symptoms.

A poll for the launch found that fewer than half of people knew to dial 999 if they or a loved one experienced the more vague signs of a heart attack.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England's medical director, said thousands of lives could potentially be saved with earlier treatment if people recognise these vital signs. "Sadly, cardiovascular disease causes a quarter of all deaths across the country and we have identified this as the single biggest area where we can save lives over the next decade."

The campaign is backed by celebrities such as One Foot in the Grave actor Richard Wilson and Sky Sports presenter Peter Dale.

Dale, who experienced a heart attack aged 36, said: “I had no idea that I was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack at the time.

“On the morning of the attack, I went home after playing football thinking I had indigestion – I just didn’t feel quite right and both of my arms started to feel numb.

“I managed to text my mum who called an ambulance and only when the paramedics arrived did I realise this was a heart attack.

“People need to be aware of the symptoms – it’s not a case of clutching your chest and falling to the ground. Early signs aren’t always severe but if you experience any symptoms, call 999. Acting quickly saved my life.”

Peter Dale known as Tubes, a presenter on Sky Sports’ Soccer AM who experienced a heart attack at 36 Credit: NHS England and NHS Improvement/PA

More than 80,000 hospital admissions are for heart attack each year in England, with a survival rate of seven people in 10, rising to nine in 10 for those who have early hospital treatment.

Only 41% of people polled knew sweating was a symptom of a heart attack, while only 27% understood that feeling weak, lightheaded or suffering a sense of general unease were also symptoms.

The campaign will also teach people the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

With a cardiac arrest, there is often no warning and the person quickly loses consciousness.

Those experiencing a cardiac arrest will usually die within minutes if they do not receive treatment. A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest.