Stroke screening programme saves lives in Cheshire

A study by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service shows that a joint campaign with the Innovation Agency has potentially prevented up to 12 strokes and saved the NHS around half a million pounds in gross treatment costs.

The Service commissioned an evaluation of the effect and impact of atrial fibrillation and affordable warmth screening as part of its Safe and Well Programme for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years - with the independent research and report produced by Dr Julian Clarke, a Senior Lecturer at Edge Hill University.

The study concluded that atrial fibrillation screening, using portable devices provided by the Innovation Agency, has potentially saved 12 lives – and an estimated £550,000 in gross treatment costs.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition caused by an abnormal heart rhythm. NHS England estimates that there are more than 20,000 people in Cheshire with the condition who are either not identified or not well managed.

As September marks National Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Awareness Month, the Service is releasing details of the report to highlight the value of pulse testing to test for atrial fibrillation.

Head of the Service’s Prevention Department, Nick Evans, said: “I am really pleased that this report from Dr Clarke shows just how valuable the Safe and Well Programme is to the public of Cheshire.

“The Safe and Well Programme is an integral part of the Service and has proved time and time again its worth. The findings are incredible and suggest that not only are the Safe and Well visits a worthwhile use of the Service’s resources, they have also made a fundamental contribution to the local health agenda of Cheshire.”

Further findings from Dr Clarke’s study included:

  • Using different official valuation assumptions (Department for Transport - cost of a serious injury), the public financial benefit of the Atrial Fibrillation work is assessed to be £2,500,000;
  • Actual savings to householders resulting from the Affordable Warmth (fuel poverty) checks were £19,495 (cumulative);
  • The Affordable Warmth checks have a value beyond ameliorating fuel poverty. They have the potential to reduce winter illness and excess deaths amongst older people; and,
  • The Atrial Fibrillation and Affordable Warmth checks have been an important addition to Cheshire FRS householder engagement work and can be found to be a worthwhile use of existing resources

Gregory Lip, Price-Evans Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Director of the Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Liverpool, said: “I welcome the publication of this report. Its findings show that a non-medical agency, such as a fire and rescue service, with appropriate training and provision of basic ECG devices, can successfully screen people for atrial fibrillation in their own homes.

“Addressing cardiovascular disease is a priority for the NHS across Cheshire and Merseyside. This research report is evidence that Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, through Safe and Well visits, has made a positive contribution to the local CVD agenda.”

The Innovation Agency provided the mobile ECG devices used to test for an irregular pulse. Its Chief Executive Dr Liz Mear said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, whose fire safety officers are doing an amazing job in helping us to find people with AF and ensure they receive treatment.

“This collaboration is an excellent example of how organisations can work together to make a real difference to people’s lives. It’s great to see the evidence that we are together saving lives and preventing long term illness.”

Chief Executive of the charity Energy Projects Plus, Peter Owen, said: “The value of our charity’s collaboration with such a trusted organisation as Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has been clearly shown in the report. Being able to stay warm at home is crucial for health and well-being, and by directly referring residents needing assistance to our service the Safe and Well Programme has enabled us to focus our support where it is needed most.”

Safe and Well Visits are offered to residents who are aged over 65 or who are referred to the Service by partner agencies. The visits still incorporate the traditional fire safety information but also offer blood pressure testing and additional advice on slips, trips and fall prevention, loneliness and isolation as well as offering additional support to those who wish to stop smoking, or reduce their alcohol consumption.

You can read the full findings from the study on the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.cheshirefire.gov.uk/partnerships/safe-and-well-visits

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