New software that helps to identify patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke will be rolled out across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf over the next three years, following a successful pilot project that has seen more than 600 people in six months.
The Cardiovascular Risk Reduction programme trains healthcare support workers in GP practices to use specific software to assess the risk of a patient developing heart disease over a 10 year period. It also compares a person’s heart age with their actual age which has proven to be a successful motivator in encouraging people to lose weight, reduce or give up smoking and alcohol. Patients who are identified as high risk are given advice on lifestyle as well as ongoing support and treatment to lower their risk of developing a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.
The programme is due to be rolled out in stages, starting in Merthyr Tydfil and the Cynon Valley in the New Year.
Patient Sarah Rastall from Aberfan was identified as being at high risk as a result of the Health Check at her GP practice. She says the programme saved her life. “I was invited to come into the practice for some tests and when I was told I had a heart age of 65 and I was 51 at the time it frightened the life out of me. It gave me the shock I needed to do something about it and within two days I gave up smoking. The team has been great – they were there for me.”
The programme was showcased at Cwm Taf University Health Board’s Research and Development Conferenceheld at the University of South Wales which was attended by more than 200 academics, clinicians, scientists and NHS staff.
R&D is a priority for Cwm Taf with the aim of making tangible improvements to patient care. Other projects showcased at the event included a partnership between Cwm Taf UHB and GSK to tackle COPD; research into inherited high cholesterol known as Familial Hypercholesterolaemia; the management of Graves Disease with anti-thyroid drug therapy, and a study to improve the jaw function of patients with head and neck cancers.
Professor John Geen, Assistant Director for Research and Development at Cwm Taf University Health Board said: “Research is critical for the development of the NHS and research plays a vital role in bringing about real and tangible improvements to patient care as well a making a difference to quality of life.
“There are a lot of myths around what research is, but as our partnerships with the universities and the pharmaceutical industry are showing, research is about a lot more than testing out new drugs – it is about trying innovative approaches like our Cardiovascular Risk Reduction project and testing new technologies and most importantly getting people involved and interested in research and development.”