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Preventing life-changing strokes

Written by: Barbara Conneely - 23rd October 2020

In this series of blogs to promote our 2019-20 Impact Report, Programme Manager, Barbara Conneely, shares her thoughts on our Atrial Fibrillation programme and the impact it has had on patients across Yorkshire and the Humber.

Atrial Fibrillation is the most common cause of an irregular heart rhythm and causes devastating strokes every year with one in every 20 sufferers left with a life-changing disability.

Our Atrial Fibrillation programme was delivered over two years and its ambition was to improve the detection and protection of AF patients within Yorkshire and the Humber. We worked with 259 GP Practices across the region to deliver this quality improvement project.

The programme had three elements:

  • Detect – increasing detection and the number of AF patients on GP registers
  • Protect – increasing prescribing of anticoagulants for AF patients at high risk of stroke
  • Perfect – review and optimise the use of anticoagulants in patients diagnosed with AF

As part of the ‘detect’ element of the programme we provided 640 mobile Electrocardiogram devices to clinicians within Yorkshire and Humber to improve the detection of undiagnosed cases of AF.

Whilst we worked closely with GP practices within the region to improve the identification and treatment of AF patients. To maximise the reach of the programme and to understand how AF management could be prioritised more widely across the healthcare system, we widened the project to work with community cardiology and heart failure teams, community pharmacists, HealthWatch Kirklees and HALE to identify opportunities to increase AF detection rates in these settings.

Our target for year one was to detect 2,100 cases of AF and 2,100 additional cases in year two of the programme. We exceeded this target with 8,000 patients detected in the first year alone.

Personal Reflections

For me, the biggest impact that our programme has had is on patient’s lives. We estimate that our work has resulted in 267 people avoiding a life-changing stroke. I have enjoyed being part of a project where you feel you can have a direct impact on patients lives.

I am also proud that our work, was recognised at the HSJ Partnership Awards where we were a finalist in the category of ‘Best Pharmaceutical Partnership with the NHS.’ This was in recognition for our work with Bayer PLC in West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership. We had a joint working agreement in place with Bayer prior to AF becoming a national programme to undertake an AF quality improvement project at scale across the GP practices in West Yorkshire and Harrogate. Bayer provided Project Management support and the learning from this project helped to shape our local delivery approach for the national programme.

The success of this project couldn’t have happened without the close collaboration and hard work of our stakeholders across the healthcare systems in our region: by working closely with clinicians we were able to understand local needs with the detection and protection elements of the programme and work collaboratively with quality improvement methodology to address these.

Outcome/what next?

The programme has been a tremendous success within our region. We have exceeded our national targets and saw high levels of GP practice engagement throughout the two years we have delivered this project.

Nationally we have inputted in to the AF toolkit which has been developed by the AHSN network as a resource to provide ongoing support and resources to commissioners and clinicians who want to continue the work to reduce AF related strokes.

We will also ensure that the learning we have taken from the project and the quality improvement element will be continued in future projects so we can continue to improve on our own delivery.

Find out more about our AF programme.

If you would like to know more about  of our projects read our Impact Report.