The NHS is rolling out innovative new technology across the east of England to prevent 500 strokes and save 125 more lives, as part of a national campaign launched today to help thousands of patients across the country.
Eastern Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is distributing free mobile devices for the NHS to detect irregular heart rhythms quickly and easily, and save £11 million for the eastern region. Clinical Commissioning Groups, local networks and care providers need to request devices for their local community by 21 February. The rollout is being unveiled during National Heart Month, which raises awareness of heart conditions and encourages everyone to make small changes for a healthier lifestyle.
Around 450 new devices including mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) units will be sent to GP practices, pharmacies and NHS community clinics across the east of England.
Dr Amanda Buttery, Atrial Fibrillation Programme Lead for Eastern AHSN said:
“These devices will help NHS staff detect an irregular heartbeat easily in just 30 seconds, and save lives by preventing strokes for hundreds of patients. More than 40,000 people throughout the East of England are unaware they have irregular heart rhythms and of the dangers that this can pose to their health, including the risk of severe stroke. We have highly effective treatments that can prevent these strokes, but improving early detection using this new, cost-effective technology is key.
“We’re offering the AliveCor Kardia Mobile device which works with smartphones and tablets via an app, and detects heart rhythms. As they are small and easy-to-use with no gels or wires required, NHS staff can take the devices on home visits to check for irregular heart rhythms. This digital health solution is a great example of a low cost innovation that can potentially make a huge difference to patients and the NHS as it approaches its 70th birthday this year.”
- Experts estimate that more than 420,000 people across England have undiagnosed irregular heart rhythm, which can cause stroke if not detected and treated appropriately, usually through blood-thinning medication to prevent clots that lead to stroke.
The new technology will allow more staff in more settings to quickly and easily conduct pulse checks. The mobile devices provide a far more sensitive and specific pulse check than a manual check and this reduces costly and unnecessary 12 lead ECGs to confirm diagnosis. As a result, the project is expected to identify about 17, 000 new cases of irregular heart rhythms (known as Atrial Fibrillation) over two years in the east of England, which could prevent up to 500 strokes and save £11 million in associated healthcare and costs.
In the 70th year of the NHS, the devices are being rolled out across the country by the 15 NHS and care innovation bodies, known as Academic Health Science Networks, in the first six months of this year as part of an NHS England-funded project. Taking advantage of digital health solutions that help evolve and innovate healthcare will be even more important for the NHS over next 70 years.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, former Medical Director of NHS England and heart surgeon, said:
“Cardiovascular disease kills more people in this country than anything else, but there are steps we can all take to prevent it. These innovations have enormous potential to prevent thousands of strokes each year, which is why NHS England has committed to funding the rollout of 6,000 mobile ECG devices to help identify cases of atrial fibrillation so behaviours can be changed and treatment started before strokes occur.
“We are also encouraging people, during National Heart Month, to learn how to check their own pulse so we can catch even more cases.”
One million people in the UK are known to be affected by AF and an additional 422,600 people are undiagnosed. As the most common type of irregular heart rhythm, it is responsible for approximately 20% of all strokes. Survivors must live with the disabling consequences and treating the condition costs the NHS over £2.2 billion each year.
- Every February is National Heart Month. This year the BHF is encouraging everyone to make small changes towards a healthier lifestyle. See more here.
The public are also encouraged to spread the word about irregular heart rhythms and urge friends and family – particularly those aged over 65 – to check their pulse and see a GP if it is irregular. Pulse checks can be done manually (a British Heart Foundation video and guide shows how here) or through new technology, with irregular rhythms investigated further by healthcare professionals.
- Use the hashtag #KnowYourPulse to help raise awareness.