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Rugby fan urges people to be on the ball when it comes to knowing their pulse

A rugby fan from Widnes is urging people to be on the ball and “know their pulse” during Global AF Aware Week 2019.


Launching today GAFAW19 is dedicated to raising awareness of atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular pulse that affects millions of people worldwide and, if left untreated, can lead to stroke.

The key theme of GAFAW19 is to Know Your Pulse as part of the AF Association’s Detect, Protect, Correct, Perfectcampaign. A simple pulse check can help to detect AF which can then be easily treated with anticoagulation medication which prevents strokes.

It is a subject very close to Phil Black’s heart. Exactly a year ago, the 50-year-old health and safety consultant discovered purely by accident that he had the heart rhythm disorder.

He recenty said:

“I was fighting a heavy cold and a chest infection and was struggling to breathe so my wife and daughter begged me to get it checked out.

“They took me to the Coronary Care Unit at Whiston Hospital where doctors found I had pneumonia, a lung clot and AF. I am so lucky that they found it – they told me I was just a week away from death.”

After having a cardioversion to slow his heart rate and anticoagulant therapy, Phil has his AF under control.

Rugby-mad Phil, who is an assistant ground safety officer at Halton Stadium, is now keen to spread the message that people need to be “on the ball” when it comes to checking their pulse.

The father of five has signed up to become an AF Ambassador, a group of volunteers led by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, who are testing pulses in their communities.

AF is a real priority for the North West Coast where it is estimated there are over 10,000 people who have the condition but are either not identified or not well managed on treatment.

The Innovation Agency is aiming to find these missing people and reduce the number of AF-strokes in the North West Coast in a number of ways:

  • The Innovation Agency has supported over 100 GP practices to improve the detection and management of AF with nearly 2,000 people being identified with AF
  • The Innovation Agency has enlisted the help of 68 volunteer AF Ambassadors throughout the North West Coast who are helping to detect the condition by testing pulses in their communities
  • The Innovation Agency is working in partnership with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) who are testing residents during their safe and well visits. Since February 2017, CFRS has carried out 7,789 atrial fibrillation screenings in Cheshire, resulting in 303 people being signposted to primary care for further investigation and treatment
  • The Innovation Agency has trained 30 pharmacists in Knowsley to provide free pulse checks in their pharmacies for customers while they wait for their prescriptions
  • The Innovation Agency has trained a team of podiatrists at the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) to test pulses during appointments with patients. The podiatry team at CWP manages the cases of over 4,000 people with 50 new people referred each week so the potential for them to help with early detection of AF is huge

Dr Julia Reynolds, Associate Director and Head of Programmes at the Innovation Agency, recenty said:

“Something as simple as knowing your pulse can save your life and reduce your risk of a debilitating or life-threatening AF-related stroke – the most severe type of stroke.

“It only takes 30 seconds, and is so simple that people of all ages, young and old, can learn how to do it.

“We’re working with a variety of organisations throughout the North West Coast to spread the Know Your Pulse message and test as many people as we can.”

So if you see our AF Ambassadors out and about testing pulses, make sure you get yours checked. Or you can do it yourself at home. Visit to find out how.

If you would like to find out more or become an AF Ambassador contact Julia on 07852 562 791 or email 


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