19 February 2019

The Innovation Agency is part of a new coalition led by Public Health England and NHS England to improve the detection and treatment of atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – A, B and C.

Detecting and treating these conditions can prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease (CVD), but they often carry no symptoms, so that millions are unaware they are at risk and in need of treatment. More than five million people in England are currently living with undiagnosed high blood pressure.


By 2029, Public Health England and NHS England want to:


  • Detect and treat millions more people living with high blood pressure who are currently undiagnosed. Currently, just over half of those with high blood pressure have been detected (6.8 million people) and the ambition is to increase this to four in five (80 per cent).
  • Ensure three quarters of 40 to 74 year olds have received a formal CVD risk check and have had their cholesterol levels recorded. Currently fewer than half (49 per cent) of those eligible for a formal check have received one (7.6 million people).
  • Increase from 35 to 45 per cent the proportion of 40 to 74 year olds at high risk of developing CVD who are treated with statins.


The A-B-C conditions can be detected through routine checks in community and healthcare settings. The ambitions include recommendations for decision makers and frontline professionals to get more people checked; and best practice for identifying and treating those already at risk.

Innovation Agency Chief Executive Dr Liz Mear is a member of the national CVD steering group. She said: “We fully support these ambitions and we will continue to play our part in helping to detect more people at risk from stroke and heart attacks. 

“Detecting an irregular heart rhythym and improving treatments for atrial fibrillation has been our single biggest focus throughout our existence as an Academic Health Science Network. I look forward to seeing the impact of this renewed focus on CVD prevention.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said: “Know your numbers and save your life. We know our PIN numbers but not the numbers that save our lives. Thousands of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by more people knowing their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and by seeking help early. Prevention is always better than cure.”

CVD is the leading cause of premature death and disability in England, causing a death every four minutes. Achieving the national ambitions would help meet the Long Term Plan target to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and cases of dementia within a decade.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “This shows the fantastic commitment being made by this coalition to identify and treat heart disease and stroke which are top priorities in the NHS Long Term Plan. These ambitions will save thousands of lives by identifying and targeting people most at risk of these preventable conditions.”

The ambitions also commit to reducing the health inequalities associated with CVD, with people in the most deprived communities four-times more likely to die prematurely from CVD than those in the least deprived. Health inequality data on each of the high risk conditions and tailored plans to tackle them will be published by 2021.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Prevention is at the heart of our vision for improving the health of the nation, empowering people to stay healthy, not just treating them when they’re ill. Almost half of those with high blood pressure are going about their daily lives without it being detected or treated. Millions of people are needlessly at risk of heart attacks or strokes when it could be prevented. So I want to help more people take the time out to protect their future health and get checked.

“The NHS Long Term Plan has a target to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and cases of dementia within ten years. By coming together across the system to agree these ambitions we have set the goal posts for how we will achieve this target and continue our fight against the nation’s biggest killer.”

Over the last five years the Innovation Agency has prevented more than 500 strokes by identifying people at risk. They have provided more than 600 mobile ECG devices to health professionals and volunteers in the North West Coast to carry out screening for an irregular heart rhythm; and worked with more than 100 GP practices to help identify people at risk of stroke and manage treatments.


To see the ambitions in full, read the CVD edition of Health Matters, here.


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