NHS England takes new measures to prevent heart disease

14 August 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

Millions of people will be offered checks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation at GPs surgeries and local pharmacies, as part of an NHS England drive to cut heart disease deaths. 

Woman taking blood pressure and heart rate with monitorOur Associate Medical Director has welcomed the move, saying that improved detection of these conditions will prevent countless heart attacks and strokes, and help reduce the pressure on the NHS. 

Risk factors for heart disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the UK. However, some of the major risk factors for CVD are significantly underdiagnosed, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (AF) – a type of abnormal heart rhythm

Nearly 30 per cent of adults in the UK have high blood pressure and it is estimated 7 million adults remain undiagnosed. Similarly, around one third of people with AF are not yet diagnosed, increasing their risk of a potentially fatal stroke. This equates to around 500,000 people across the UK.

A donut chart showing that there are 9.5 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and up to 7 million who are undiagnosed

Simple checks

The scheme, called the NHS Right-Care Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Pathway, aims to identify people with heart disease risk factors by doing simple checks at GP surgeries and pharmacies. It will also take steps to ensure that people who have previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are on the appropriate medication.

So far, the scheme has been rolled out at 84 of the 209 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England, with plans to introduce it at the remaining CCGs within the next two years.

Reducing variations in care

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “Early detection of high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation or high cholesterol will ensure more people get the right treatments to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

“The NHS is good at doing this in some areas of the country but not all. If we can get the NHS to detect and treat atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol better, we will reduce the burden of disease on individuals, their families and the NHS.

“The Right Care programme is providing the NHS with the support and resources it needs to reduce the unacceptable variations in care across the country, ultimately to improve outcomes for patients.”

Continually improving care

Our work with the NHS has been central to identifying best case practice for improving the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and genetically high cholesterol. 

We are now working with the NHS to run pilot schemes aimed at finding more effective ways of diagnosing high blood pressure in the community, which could help inform future guidelines issued through initiatives like NHS Rightcare to CCGs. 

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