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Innovation Agency exceeds national stroke prevention targets

Around 80 strokes will be prevented in the North West Coast each year thanks to a programme to detect and treat irregular heart rhythms.

The Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, has exceeded its targets to detect people in the region with atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of all strokes, which can leave survivors with devastating disabilities. In the UK, one million people are known to be affected by AF and an additional 422,600 people are undiagnosed. Treating the condition costs the NHS over £2.2 billion each year.

Making sure people with AF are given the best treatment – usually blood-thinning medication to prevent clots (anticoagulants) – can more than halve their risk of having a stroke.

In 2015, the Academic Health Science Network set ambitious targets to improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of patients with AF.

Here in the North West Coast, data showed that:

  • 24,210 people were estimated to have undetected AF
  • 76 per cent of people with high-risk AF were treated with anticoagulation therapy

The Innovation Agency played a key role in the nationwide ‘Detect, Protect, Perfect’ campaign and was tasked with detecting and diagnosing 85 per cent of those ‘missing’ people with undiagnosed AF and ensuring 84 per cent of patients with AF, known to be at high risk of a stroke, were adequately anticoagulated.

The latest Quality Outcome Framework (QOF) data for 2018/2019 revealed that the Innovation Agency achieved a 98 per cent detection rate against a Public Health England target of 85 per cent, making it the highest performing region for this national programme and exceeding the national target for 2029.

Plus, 84 per cent of our region’s high-risk AF patients are now receiving anticoagulation therapy – an increase of eight per cent since 2015/2016.

The Innovation Agency adopted a partnership approach to engage the whole healthcare system in helping to detect people with AF and improve care. It has:

  • Distributed over 500 mobile ECG devices to healthcare teams across primary care and community services to facilitate opportunistic pulse testing
  • Trained over 70 volunteer AF Ambassadors to test pulses in their communities
  • Trained fire and rescue services in Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria to perform pulse checks during community safe and well visits, resulting in over 10,000 opportunistic pulse tests and over 1,000 people being signposted for further investigation
  • Implemented two AF Collaboratives involving 136 GP practices and nine CCGs to deliver a quality improvement programme to primary care. This has resulted in 2,300 people being diagnosed with AF and given anticoagulation therapy

This collaborative approach has demonstrated significant, sustainable improvement in the detection and management of AF for the region.

Dr Julia Reynolds, Associate Director and Head of Programmes at the Innovation Agency, said: “We are delighted that all the hard work in our region in testing pulses, has resulted in more people being identified with AF and treated to prevent potential strokes. We have already started to see a reduction in AF-related strokes.”

If you would like to find out more contact Julia on 01772 520 253 or email

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