New figures reveal that a programme aiming to improve the detection and treatment of an irregular heart rhythm known as Atrial Fibrillation (AF) has helped to prevent 860 strokes and saved 215 lives. This represents an estimated cost saving to the NHS of £12million and a further £8million in social care savings.
AF is a condition which causes an irregular or abnormally fast heart rate and is a major risk factor for stroke. Recognising and receiving proper treatment for the condition, which often shows no symptoms, is important because strokes due to AF tend to be more severe. Detecting AF early and making sure people are given optimal treatment - usually blood-thinning medication to prevent clots (anticoagulants) reduces the risk of stroke by two thirds.
Over the last four years, an NHS programme, led regionally by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), has introduced a number of initiatives to identify and treat those with the condition.
The success of the regional programme has also received national recognition this week, with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s project selected to be published in The AF Association’s Healthcare Pioneers Report, which showcases the most innovative approaches to detecting and managing AF.
The aim of the Healthcare Pioneers Report is to provide models of best practice that other centres, across the globe, can adapt to improve the care and quality of life with people with AF.
As part of the AHSN’s national AF programme, which aimed to improve the detection and treatment of AF by rolling out the use of a pulse check device - called AliveCor - at a range of healthcare settings, the AHSN NENC worked closely with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service to implement the use of AliveCor as part of the service’s Safe and Well visits, which focused on older, more frail and vulnerable people.
The AHSN NENC allocated 470 AliveCor devices to different professional settings, including the Fire & Rescue Service in Cumbria, to Detect AF in people at high risk of AF. Cumbria FRS used the AliveCor device as part of their Safe and Well visits, which included pulse checking, alcohol reduction, smoking cessation, social wellbeing and falls.
One woman, who was subsequently diagnosed with AF, said that had it not been for the visit of the Fire & Rescue crew, she may never had known she had AF and that she was at risk of a potentially life-changing devastating AF-related stroke. Overall, the AliveCor devices were used 169 times, detecting 11 abnormal rhythms (6.5% detection rate).
Steve Healey, Chief Fire Officer for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Keeping our communities safe, as well as those who work with us and for us, is at the heart of everything we do and being recognised in the Healthcare Pioneers Report is a testament to that.
“Well done and thank you to everybody in the team on this achievement, it’s something we should all be proud of and demonstrates fantastic partnership working with AHSN NENC, to ensure we keep our communities as safe as possible.”