The latest Surrey Heartlands Stakeholder Reference Group meeting was held this month at the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Centre HQ in Woking where the agenda included an in-depth update on cardiovascular prevention work including testing members for a condition called Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

David McNulty, independent chair of the Surrey Heartlands Transformation Board, opened the event with an update on the Surrey Heartlands programme and priorities.

The event’s centrepiece saw presentations on cardiovascular prevention with a focus on high blood pressure and Atrial Fibrillation (AF) from Royal Surrey Hospital Consultant Cardiologist Dr Michael Hickman and Jen Bayly, Cardiovascular Lead for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network.

Dr Hickman’s powerful presentation included some shocking statistics about the impact of both conditions. For example, both are high risk conditions and the top contributors to the more than 300 lives lost prematurely to cardiovascular disease each year in Surrey.

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) alone is responsible for:

  • 45% of all coronary heart disease
  • 50% of strokes
  • 25% of chronic kidney disease
  • 8% of all dementia

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of irregular heart rhythm but it often goes undiagnosed. In Surrey Heartlands over 6000 people in the expected AF population are ’missing’ – living with a potentially life threatening condition.

AF increases the risk of stroke five times and is responsible for 20 per cent of all strokes. What’s more, the individual impact of an AF-related stroke is far worse than a stroke from another cause.

AF-related stroke is associated with increased severity and disability compared with non-AF-related stroke. And strokes due to AF are associated with an increased risk of death with a 30-day mortality rate of 33% vs 16% for non-AF strokes; and a 1-year mortality rate of 50% vs 27% for patients without AF).

Jen Bayly delivered a literal reality check as part of her presentation with members of the stakeholder group taking up her invitation to have their heart and pulse rates checked using a mobile phone-based portable ECG. Jen is using the device as part of her project to increase AF detection across Surrey Heartlands.

Jen said: “Mobile ECGs have been demonstrated as an effective, low cost solution for identifying new AF and reducing the risk of AF-related strokes. The beauty of this AliveCor device is that it is quick and easy to use, requires no specialist equipment or training, and provides a direct result that can easily be shared with GPs.

“By seeding the devices in a range of settings across the region we hope to be able to not only identify those with AF, but also raise awareness of the condition, open up conversations around the signs and symptoms to look out for and educate others on the importance of pulse rhythm checks.”