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22 November 2021

Heel prick testing kit with Health Care Assistant Emma McMillan (left) and Practice Research Nurse Stephanie Duncan-Noke

A GP surgery in Warrington has become the first in the country to begin screening to detect a life threatening, inherited condition.

The Eric Moore Partnership Medical Practice has begun offering heel prick tests for familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which can lead to extremely high cholesterol levels.

The Innovation Agency is spearheading a programme which sees both parents and children screened.

“As a practice, we are really excited to take part in this pioneering parent child screening programme,” said Steph Duncan Noke, a research nurse at the Eric Moore Partnership. “Trials such as this are important in being able to identify preventable diseases such as FH.”

“As with any new study it was challenging getting up to speed with its requirements. Making sure children and parents feel comfortable with the prospect of us taking a blood sample alt the 1-year immunisation schedule has been key in our ability to run the trial successfully,” she added.

The programme is part of a national scheme to improve the management of cholesterol by increasing the detection of people with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia and make good use of medicines to manage their cholesterol levels.

The NHS Long Term Plan states that the biggest area where the NHS can save lives over the next 10 years is by reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) which causes one death every three minutes in the UK. For the first time in 50 years, deaths from premature cardiovascular disease are increasing and it is hoped this  targeted approach will make a difference.

More GP practices in the north west coast are now being urged to join the pilot scheme to help reduce the region’s traditionally high levels of cholesterol. The Innovation Agency’s work is part of a national lipids optimisation programme that began in 2020/21 and will run for three years.

“This is a simple test yet the benefits it can bring are massive," said Dr Julia Reynolds, the Innovation Agency’s Associate Director of Transformation. “It takes just a few minutes but by conducting it at the same time as a child has a first year appointment we can make the most of this vital window of opportunity to suggest a change in a family’s lifestyle.”

For more information email: Julia.reynolds@innovationagencynwc.nhs.uk

A podcast about the process can be heard here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7960991-how-a-heel-prick-test-could-lead-to-life-changing-treatment

In another podcast, 34-year old Ciara Wannop from Carlisle describes how she had a heart attack while pregnant - but feels lucky to have had an early warning of a potentially life-threatening condition. Dr Youssef Beaini, the clinical lead of a national programme from the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative to help reduce heart disease joins the discussion. The programme is part of the Rapid Uptake Products programme. Both guests talk to Dr Phil Jennings, AHSN Network Lead for the Rapid Uptake Products. Listen here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7909013-how-a-heart-attack-saved-a-young-mum-s-life

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