Technology will check for atrial fibrillation during home visits
Firefighters will check residents in Cheshire for atrial fibrillation, a common contributing factor to strokes
Firefighters in Eastern Cheshire will soon be adding potentially-life-saving heart checks to their Safe and Well visits following the expansion of an innovative project.
Health Innovation Manchester, an Academic Health Science Network supporting the implementation of health innovations, is working in partnership with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) and NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to improve the detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the community.
Health Innovation Manchester has funded eight MyDiagnosticks mobile electro-cardiograph (ECG) screening tools, manufactured by Applied Biomedical Systems BV, which firefighters in Eastern Cheshire can use to carry out checks for AF, an irregular heart rhythm that is hard to detect and is a common contributing factor for stroke.
From February 2017 to March 2018, CFRS completed over 47,700 Safe and Well visits to the county’s residents aged over 65 or who are considered at particular risk.
Currently, people are given advice and referred to services for help and assistance for slips, trips and falls, bowel cancer screening awareness, stopping smoking, and alcohol reduction, as well as information on affordable warmth.
Atrial fibrillation advice was first trialled during visits in Halton before being expanded to Safe and Well visits in the South Cheshire, Vale Royal, and West Cheshire CCG areas.
More than 1,800 atrial fibrillation screenings have been carried out, with 76 people identified as having an irregular heart rate and signposted to see their GP.
From 1 April to 30 June this year, CFRS completed a further 10,000 visits. This included a further 1,025 people screened for AF, with 60 identified as having an irregular heart rate.
The new devices will now enable firefighters to expand the heart checks to the Eastern Cheshire CCG area.
During the visits a firefighter will carry out a simple ECG test to assess whether the householder has an irregular heartbeat. Anyone who tests positive is given a leaflet to explain they have been screened for AF by a trained firefighter, given basic information about what it means, and advised to make an urgent GP appointment.
Early detection and monitoring can pave the way for better treatment, including access to highly-effective treatments to prevent strokes.
Hakeel Qureshi, project manager at Health Innovation Manchester, said: “The visits offered by Cheshire FRS are the perfect opportunity to reach more people in the community, identify those with an irregular heart rhythm, and ensure they are given advice before the problem becomes much larger or potentially life-threatening.
“We hope the devices will be regularly used to detect atrial fibrillation and will become a useful product in preventing strokes and saving lives.”
Dr Paul Bowen, Eastern Cheshire CCG clinical chair and a GP at the McIlvride Medical Practice in Poynton, added: “The use of MyDiagnosticks will help achieve the collective aim of the CCG and its partners to inspire better health and wellbeing through the provision of community-based, person-centred services that also reduce avoidable demand on urgent and emergency care.
“I’ve no doubt that screening for AF in people’s homes will reduce the incidence of stroke in Eastern Cheshire.”