Tameside patient ambassador joins Health Innovation Manchester in fight against strokes for Global Atrial Fibrillation Aware Week.
23 November 2018

A Tameside patient ambassador has joined Health Innovation Manchester in a fight to reduce the number of strokes as part of Global Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Aware Week.

AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder and is a common contributing factor for stroke. In AF, the heart's upper chambers contract randomly and sometimes so fast that the heart muscle cannot relax properly between contractions. This reduces the heart's efficiency and performance.

It can affect adults of any age, but it's more common in older people and is more likely to occur in people with other conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or a heart valve problem.

It is estimated that within Greater Manchester there are over 15,000 people who have AF but have not been identified, including 1,440 in Tameside.

Health Innovation Manchester, the body responsible for accelerating the discovery and implementation of innovation into the health and care system, are working to reduce this figure by deploying innovative detection technology into the system.

As part of AF Association’s Global AF Aware Week (19-25 November 2018) Ingrid Brindle, from Hyde, is very keen to raise awareness of Atrial Fibrillation after her own experiences living with the condition

Ingrid, a member of the Health Innovation Manchester Public Experience Group, was diagnosed with paroxysmal or intermittent AF after experiencing several episodes of palpitations.

Ingrid, aged 74, said: “It happened to me several times and it can be very frightening.

“I had episodes where I would be sitting up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, feeling sick and dizzy and unable to breathe properly. Then, all of a sudden, it would stop.

“I’d visit my doctor the next day and would be examined thoroughly but there would be no evidence of what had happened.”

Ingrid underwent tests and wore heart monitors for days at a time but, without having an episode during the testing period, no issue was noted. It was only by chance when she had an episode while in her cardiologist’s office that she could be examined and her AF diagnosis was confirmed.

Ingrid, who is also part of her Patient Participation Group with her GP Surgery, underwent several surgeries to restore a normal heart rhythm and her AF is now controlled using medication.

After being made aware of the AliveCor Kardia devices, a credit card-sized mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) device which can detect AF in just 30 seconds, Ingrid has been demonstrating how they work and aiding their use during community health roadshows with health professionals.

“I’m very keen to raise awareness of AF and prevent the horrific devastation of a stroke,” Ingrid continued.

“A stroke is hugely costly — not just to the NHS but also to families and a person’s quality of life.

“When you compare it to the cost and effort it takes to screen people for AF using these devices and find those at risk early so they can receive preventative treatment screening makes complete sense.

“The devices are quick and simple to use and I’d encourage anyone to take part in the check if they are offered the chance.”

It is estimated that if 85% of those with AF were identified and correctly medicated/treated, 371 strokes could be prevented, potentially saving 93 lives and £8million in savings to the NHS.

As part of the Greater Manchester Healthy Hearts programme, Health Innovation Manchester has provided NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups with mobile ECG devices which have been deployed to local GPs, practice nurses and practice-based pharmacists to assess how they can benefit primary care.

The devices have also been distributed to community groups through the AF Ambassador scheme, a project with Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast. The AF Ambassadors can use the portable devices to identify those who may have AF and advise anyone with a positive result to consult their GP.

The volunteers are also raising awareness about AF and how early detection and monitoring can pave the way for better treatment for people with AF, including avoidance of illness, disability and premature death associated with AF-related strokes.

Each stroke is potentially life-threatening and those caused by AF could have been avoided through the correct medication or surgery.

Nancy McNeilance, Programme Development Lead, Health Innovation Manchester, said: “Global AF Aware week is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of AF and how early detection can be life saving for the people of Greater Manchester.

“The devices distributed by Health Innovation Manchester have already made a difference to awareness and detection rates through opportunistic screening in the community.

“We hope the devices continue to be regularly used to detect atrial fibrillation and become a useful product in preventing strokes and saving lives.

“Health Innovation Manchester is committed to championing new innovations and medical technologies in order to make a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of people in Greater Manchester.”

Anyone who is concerned about Atrial Fibrillation is advised to contact their GP.