The BHF and NHS England launches service to prevent heart attacks across West Midlands

8 March 2017        

Category: Survival and support

A diagram showing the family tree of a family with familial hypercholesterolaemia

The BHF and NHS England today launch the country’s first region-wide service to prevent heart attacks across West Midlands.

A new partnership between the BHF and NHS England could prevent hundreds of heart attacks and strokes across the West Midlands with the launch of a new region-wide service to screen people for high levels of cholesterol.

What's the condition?

Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is an inherited condition that is passed down through families. It is characterised by high cholesterol levels and is the main inherited cause of early heart and circulatory disease if left untreated.

NHS England (West Midlands) and the BHF have joined forces to work with all 22 Clinical Commissioning Groups to launch the country’s first region-wide cascade screening service which will see all relatives of people diagnosed with FH tested for the condition.

Today Dr Kiran Patel, Medical Director at NHS England (West Midlands) and who has spearheaded the development of the service, said: “By introducing this screening test as routine we could potentially prevent hundreds of deaths from cardiovascular disease across the West Midlands.”

BHF involvement 

BHF has provided almost £400,000 to fund five nurses who will provide testing across the region.

Our Chief Executive Simon Gillespie, said: “FH is often called a hidden killer, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be hidden and it doesn’t have to be fatal; treatment to prevent heart attacks is straightforward once the condition has been identified. More than 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the faulty gene through BHF funded cascade testing and are now receiving the right treatment to achieve normal life expectancy. It’s more than each individual who benefits from the diagnosis, it’s the whole family.

“BHF has funded research into FH for more than 30 years and our ultimate goal is consistent access to genetic testing across the UK. Today’s launch is a huge step towards achieving that goal for the whole West Midlands region.”

Hope for FH patients

It now means that if someone living in the West Midlands has an usually high cholesterol level their DNA can be tested for FH genes. If one is found, then their immediate family can be contacted to see if they want to be tested. Likewise, those who are unfortunate enough to have had premature cardiovascular disease can be screened for FH where it is appropriate to do so.

FH, once diagnosed is a manageable condition. Cholesterol lowering drugs can be prescribed and people are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle to keep cholesterol as low as possible.

The service is be launched at the Innovation Birmingham Campus on 8 March and will be attended by Huon Gray, NHS England Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention.

Pioneering research

Read about the research we are funding into FH.

Find out more