NHS England has announced it will roll out a £9m programme to help CCGs ‘spot heart conditions and save lives’.
The programme will run in 23 parts of the country, with the extra funding helping CCGs identify heart conditions sooner by providing extra training to health professionals such as specialist nurses and clinical pharmacists.
The scheme will run until March 2020 and is expected to help almost 20,000 patients at increased risk of a stroke by providing them with targeted checks and treatment, NHS England said.
Patients who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation but are not receiving treatment will be identified within their GP practice and a tailored treatment plan developed for them by their GP.
NHS England said the programme will be rolled out across the 23 CCGs with the highest proportion of people with atrial fibrillation and is expected to prevent around 700 strokes and save an estimated 200 lives.
The risk of stroke is reduced by two-thirds when a patient with atrial fibrillation is treated with anticoagulant drugs.
However, only half of patients with the condition who suffer a stroke had been treated with them, NHS England said.
Strokes cost the NHS around £3bn per year, while treating someone who had a stroke for five years can cost up to £45,000 in aftercare, NHS England added.
NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis said preventing stroke and treating health conditions is a ‘top priority in the NHS long-term plan’.
He added: ‘Not only is stroke one of the biggest killers in our country, it leads to life-changing and often devastating long-term harm for many others.
‘So by spotting the risks early, the NHS will not only prevent serious harm to the people affected, but avoid the need for aftercare which puts additional pressure on the health service.’
The new £9m programme is based on a successful pilot ran by Lambeth and Southwark CCGs in London between 2015 and 2016.
As part of the pilot, a GP and a specialist anticoagulation pharmacist discussed treatment options with patients with atrial fibrillation via Skype, phone, and face-to-face consultations.
The two CCGs reviewed 1,500 patients and prescribed anticoagulants to a total of 1,200 of these, reducing the rate of atrial fibrillation-related strokes by 25%.
British Heart Foundation chief executive Simon Gillespie said: ‘Designing innovative programmes to diagnose people with atrial fibrillation in the community has the potential to rapidly increase the number of people who are given potentially life-saving anticoagulants.
‘This important and innovative programme will ensure that some of the country’s most at-risk groups get diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage, in the process preventing hundreds of people from experiencing the often devastating impact of a stroke.’