This week (16 – 22 November 2020) marks AF (Atrial Fibrillation) Awareness Week, an annual event aiming to raise awareness of the most common arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder), something that can affect adults of any age and is the most common cause of a stroke.
Recent NHS figures reveal that an additional 13,298 people across the Midlands have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and 11,468 more are receiving treatment, thanks to a major drive to improve detection and protection. These figures cover a one-year period up to and including March 2020 and focus on the detection and treatment of Atrial Fibrillation. In the Midlands alone it is estimated that 288,350 people have AF1.
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. With early diagnosis and treatment being crucial for those who suffer from AF, NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned a new programme to diagnose and protect more patients.
The lifesaving initiative was rolled out by the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) and other AHSN networks from across the UK. This programme has helped to avoid an estimated 459 strokes and saved 115 lives in the last year across the Midlands alone.
Dr Nazish Khan, CVD Clinical Lead and Lucy Chatwin, Head of Innovation Implementation at WMAHSN, said: “We are really pleased with the improvement seen as it has demonstrated that through collaboration between primary and secondary care, we can learn how to improve the detection and management of people at risk of AF, reduce the number of AF related strokes and improve people’s quality of life.
“The AF programme is a great example of population health management and how reducing the burden associated with AF gives us time to address the health inequalities across the region.”
The programme aims to improve the diagnosis for patients with AF and subsequent treatment by working with health and care professionals (including GPs and pharmacists), making detection devices available, operating training and learning initiatives and raising awareness of diagnosis and anticoagulation opportunities.
Between April 2016 and March 2020, it is estimated that the programme has saved 573 lives and helped prevent more than 2,290 people across the Midlands from suffering a life-changing AF-related stroke.
In addition to the positive impact on hundreds of people’s lives, the programme has also enabled significant financial efficiencies for the region’s health and social care system – amounting to an estimated £51.4 million (which includes £10.3 million from April 2019 - March 2020).
The West Midlands AHSN is one of 15 AHSNs nationwide, which operate as the innovation arm of the NHS. The AHSNs are commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Office for Life Sciences to test and spread innovation to help the NHS provide the best patient care.
Across all AHSNs delivering the initiative in England, the latest NHS data shows that from April 2016 up to March 2020 the number of additional people with AF receiving treatment each year has increased by almost 300,000. Since the national initiative started in 2016, it is estimated to have saved 2,933 lives and avoided 11,734 people suffering AF-related strokes
Dr Nigel Sturrock, Medical Director (Midlands) at NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “Strokes can be absolutely devastating both for the patient and their family, and better detection and treatment of high-risk cardiovascular conditions like Atrial Fibrillation is critical to avoiding stroke and saving lives.
“Supported by the AHSNs, NHS and public health organisations across the Midlands have been working together for a number of years on this important initiative and the latest data shows the positive impact this is having with many hundreds of lives saved.
There is also a benefit to the health and care system by reducing hospital admissions and social care costs related to stroke.”