Public Health England (PHE) launched a campaign in 2016 to reduce the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) caused by atrial fibrillation (AF), high blood pressure and cholesterol.
All these conditions can be treated if detected. This is great news and the effect of early diagnosis and prevention will have a massive impact on people’s lives. What is even better news is that good progress has been achieved towards their goal of effective treatment and as a result they have increased their target to 90%.
During a case I advised on, a client had consulted me about a spinal injury that led to her needing a colostomy. Before the operation for the colostomy she had a pre-operative review, which found that she had atrial fibrillation (a rapid, irregular heartbeat).
She had the operation and a few days later had a stroke. She recovered well but was not advised about medication that would be effective in preventing another stroke. Unfortunately, less than six months later she went on to have a further, more significant stroke which severely affected her independence and her quality of life. This could have been prevented.
I was able to obtain compensation for all of her injuries and their impact on her life, but it would have been far better if they had been prevented.
The treatment for atrial fibrillation is anticoagulation. This can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 66%. The irregular heart beat can cause blood clots to form and this increases the risk of stroke by five times. The number of AF-related strokes in England is thought to be an average of 40 every day.
It is not known what causes AF, but it is known that it is more common with increasing age. It is also more common in men than in women. Figures from Public Health England suggest that about 1.4 million people in England have AF (2.45% of the population).
The ambition to increase the identification of the condition and its effective management significantly by 2029 is laudable. Having seen the devastating effects first hand of the failure to provide optimal treatment, as well as the cost to the NHS, I wish the campaign every success.
Pictured above: Andrea Rusbridge, a partner working in the clinical negligence department.