NHS and PHE launch new drive to prevent heart attacks and strokes

The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are to announce a new drive to save thousands of lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes resulting from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

New PHE analysis suggests there is an opportunity to prevent over 9,000 heart attacks and at least 14,000 strokes over the next three years with better detection and management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.

Speaking at the NHS Expo conference in Manchester, chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens will urge the new sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) to take coordinated cross-system action to improve identification and treatment of these life-threatening conditions.

The new analysis shows the scale of the prevention opportunity across England over three years if treatment of these conditions is optimised. Achieving optimal treatment in all people with diagnosed high blood pressure has the potential to avert up to 9,710 heart attacks and 14,500 strokes, saving up to £274 million. Achieving optimal treatment for those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation has the potential to avert up to 14,220 strokes, saving £241 million.

PHE and NHS England have written to all 44 STPs, letting them know of the prevention opportunity in their local areas, and sharing with them the data for their individual STPs.

They are likely to drive improvement in two ways, the government says: through partnerships that support at scale implementation of initiatives such as healthy workforce schemes, active transport plans and the Active 10 app; and the NHS Right Care CVD Prevention Programme which can be rolled out across a much wider area.

The NHS Right Care programme will help GPs and local areas to make sure more patients get proven treatments by organising local services differently. This will include more testing and treatment in pharmacies, increasing uptake of NHS Health Check, more self-monitoring, more access to blood pressure testing in community and workplace settings, and new digital tools.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: “Closer working between NHS organisations and local authorities will create new opportunities to get serious about prevention and bear down on two of our biggest killers that between them are responsible for one in four premature deaths.

“Heart attacks and strokes devastate the lives of thousands of people. Tackling a problem of this size requires action across areas. It is not something that the health service can do alone.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “High blood pressure is the invisible killer. We want people to be as familiar with their blood pressure numbers as they are with their credit card PIN or their height.

“Too many people are still living in poor health and dying from a largely preventable disease. The good news is that we know how most heart attacks and strokes can be avoided. Scaling up CVD prevention locally is a major part of reducing the overall burden on individuals, families and the NHS, and will help us ensure a person’s health is not defined by where they live.”

Matt Kearney, the NHS’s national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said: “We know that there are many ways that people can prevent heart attacks and strokes - by being more active, not smoking and having a healthy diet. What the NHS Right Care programme and the STP partnerships bring is an opportunity for the NHS to improve treatment of the high-risk conditions, at scale across an area, and prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes.”

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