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British too reserved to call 999-heart charity

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) The British ''stiff upper lip'' may explain why 40 per cent of people would not dial 999 immediately if they thought they had suffered a heart attack, according to a survey released today.

The YouGov poll also revealed 64 per cent of people experiencing heart attack symptoms would ring their partner, friend, relative, doctor or NHS Direct -- the National Health Service's telephone network -- rather than call an ambulance.

''These statistics portray a very worrying, and perhaps very British, reluctance to call 999 even in the most serious of emergencies,'' said Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation which commissioned the poll.

''Maybe it is our natural reserve and stoicism, but it is costing lives,'' added Weissberg.

The heart charity launched a ''Doubt Kills'' advertising campaign today to accompany the survey, encouraging people to dial 999 if they suspected they had had a heart attack.

The campaign is being backed by celebrities who have been touched by heart disease, including television presenter Carol Vorderman and ''Eastenders'' and ''Dad's Army'' actor Ian Lavender.

The BHF said people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack waited on average 90 minutes before calling an ambulance.

''Someone suffers a heart attack every two minutes in the UK, and about one in three dies before reaching hospital,'' said Weissberg.

''Every second counts when you're having a heart attack and the quicker you call 999 the greater your chances of survival.'' The YouGov survey questioned 2,523 adults during November.

Reuters AKJ VV0837

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