New NHS funding is being provided to parts of Lancashire to help find and treat people with an irregular heart rhythm that puts them at high risk of stroke.
A programme of ‘virtual clinics’ will be rolled out nationally in areas covered by 23 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, including three in Lancashire - Chorley and South Ribble, Morecambe Bay and West Lancashire.
The work involves checking treatment plans for patients with atrial fibrillation and making sure they are on the best medication, such as blood-thinning medication to prevent clots. Anticoagulation medication can more than halve the risk of stroke. The Innovation Agency is providing support as required, for instance with the provision of AF testing devices; and quality improvement.
Experts estimate that more than 147,000 people in England are at risk of a stroke as they have an irregular heart rhythm but are not receiving appropriate treatment.
The £9 million investment from NHS England will fund specialists to work with GPs and advise them on the best treatment for people identified as having atrial fibrillation.
This new scheme, successfully trialled in South London, will treat more than 18,000 people and is expected to prevent up to 700 strokes and save at least 200 lives.
The programme will run across 23 areas of the country with the highest rates of the condition, providing specialist clinical pharmacists and nurses to help identify people who could benefit from medication.
This new approach is being supported by the Innovation Agency and its 14 fellow Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).
Innovation Agency Associate Director Julia Reynolds said: “More than 15,000 people in the North West Coast have been identified with atrial fibrillation, putting them at higher risk of stroke, but are not receiving medication or are not well controlled on their medication.
“We know that providing treatment for patients with this condition reduces their risk, but at the moment, half of all people with this irregular heart rhythm who suffer a stroke, have received none or sub-optimal treatment.
“The pilot programme showed that when specialists are made available to advise GPs and review medication, more people with atrial fibrillation are identified and treated, helping to avoid strokes and save lives.”
Mike Maguire, Chief Officer of NHS West Lancashire CCG, said: “Strokes can lead to extensive long-lasting problems, with many people requiring long term support to regain as much of their independence and quality of life as possible.
“This funding is hugely welcome at West Lancashire, as we recognise the significant and positive impact focusing on prevention can have. Not only will this funding help equip our GPs with specialist knowledge and advice, but thanks to this investment our patients will be identified early on as being at risk and in turn receive the support and medication they need to minimise the possibility of having a stroke.”
Clare Moss, Head of Medicines Optimisation at NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG, said: “We welcome this funding and look forward to the significant investments made into stroke services as a result.
“We know that providing the right medication for patients with this condition reduces stroke risk and this investment will ensure more patients are identified at the earliest opportunity and their medicines optimised to reduce their risk of stroke."