Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is testing the pulses of vulnerable residents as a trailblazing partnership spreads through the county.
Community Safety Advisors in Chorley, Bamber Bridge and Leyland have been testing pulses during Home Safety Checks for people aged over 65 to screen for atrial fibrillation (AF) and reduce strokes in the region.
AF is an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) which is the cause of one in five strokes but, once detected, it can be easily treated with anticoagulant medication.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has joined forces with the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, to help reduce the number of AF-related strokes in the region.
They are using mobile ECG devices to carry out simple pulse checks with the target of preventing around 300 AF-related strokes. The trial will run for six months and will then be evaluated and considered for wider roll out across Lancashire.
Jane Williams, Prevention Support Manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “For some time now we’ve recognised that our home visits to provide fire safety advice and to fit smoke alarms enable us, with the help of the partner agencies we work closely with, to deliver a lot more to enhance the safety and wellbeing of the often vulnerable people that we visit.
“It’s a natural progression for us to offer AF testing when carrying out our Safe and Well visits, making the best possible use of our contact with people who are unlikely to seek out services for themselves and who therefore tend to miss out on essential health screening.”
The first fire safety officers to take on board the task of testing pulses during their Safe and Well Visits were in Halton, supported by Halton CCG and Halton Borough Council’s Public Health Team, with portable devices provided by the Innovation Agency.
The idea has now been adopted by four more CCGs in Cheshire and in parts of Lancashire and Cumbria. In the last 12 months, fire safety officers have tested 3,672 pulses and signposted 165 people with possible AF to their GPs for further tests.
Anyone who is found to have an irregular pulse is given a leaflet to explain they have been screened for atrial fibrillation and advised to make an appointment with a GP as soon as possible.
Dr Julia Reynolds, Head of Programmes at the Innovation Agency, said: “This initiative is one of several we have funded across our region to help reduce AF related strokes.
“So far, this has led to fantastic results in getting some of the most difficult to reach people in the county in touch with services which will help them. This early intervention means that the people will receive treatment before the problem becomes much larger and potentially prevents them from having a life-threatening stroke.”