Meet the nurses transforming arrhythmia care by integrating services

How two BHF Alliance award-winning nurses are helping to streamline care for patients with AF and inherited heart conditions through service integration.

15 February 2018, by Siobhan Chan

Susanne and Connie at work 

Connie Dunbar (left) and Susanne Christie work at NHS Tayside in Scotland.

Two nurse specialists who won a BHF Alliance Award for integrating services for arrhythmia patients have now seen their efforts highlighted as a beacon of best practice in a recent parliamentary report.

Arrhythmia and cardiac rehab nurse specialists Susanne Christie and Connie Dunbar won our BHF Alliance Award for Integrated Care in June 2017. They were recognised for developing services for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), implantable cardiac devices such as internal defibrillators, and inherited cardiac conditions like long QT syndrome.

In January, a report [PDF] by the Cross Party Group Inquiry into Atrial Fibrillation in Scotland held up their work as an example of good practice in integrating care services for AF.

Susanne and Connie were initially brought into posts funded by the BHF in 2013, which NHS Tayside has since sustained. Both say patient care is much more streamlined since they began integrating services.

“Patients used to be confused about seeing staff with all kinds of specialisms, but our aim now is that they see a smaller number of staff who are trained to deal with a wider range of issues,” says Susanne.

Patients now attend fewer appointments and can have multiple issues attended to by one trained nurse, improving patient experience. Fewer duplicate appointments means reduced pressure on healthcare professionals.

Streamlining care

Nurse-led clinics for AF patients were among the major aims of the integrated care project, which they spearheaded.

To begin with, the pair delivered four rapid-access, nurse-led AF clinics each month but demand has surged and in February 2018 NHS Tayside will run 14 clinics.

“The demand for the clinics is outstripping our ability to deliver them,” says Connie. “We’ve begun upskilling other members of the cardiac rehab team so they can deliver these clinics too.”

Do you know someone who has achieved outstanding success in their field? The 2018 BHF Alliance Awards celebrate excellence in cardiovascular care and nominations are open until 28 Feb 2018.


An evaluation showed 98% of patients were satisfied with the care provided by a nurse as opposed to another medical professional, and 94% understood their condition better.

“We have 11 or 12 consultants referring to our clinics now. They’re busy clinics, but very successful,” Susanne says.

The two nurses also set up multidisciplinary team clinics and meetings for patients with inherited cardiac conditions, where they discuss onward management plans for patients with significant support needs.

They’ve also run educational events for healthcare practitioners to improve understanding of heart conditions such as arrhythmia.

‘A great achievement’

Susanne and Connie are in the process of integrating the heart failure nursing service. Eventually, they hope to create a single point of referral to help streamline services for patients with heart conditions. 

Setting up the integrated service has been a challenge, they say, but winning the BHF Alliance award has helped them realise how much they’ve achieved. “We feel really fortunate to have been able to develop our service and are privileged to have achieved what we have,” says Connie.

Susanne adds: “We hope to see services like this develop in other areas. It’s a very fulfilling job – very demanding at times, but also very rewarding.”

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