Atrial fibrillation is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia, and estimates suggest its prevalence is increasing. If left untreated atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke five-fold.
AF-related strokes are often more severe with higher mortality and greater disability. Treatment with an anticoagulant significantly reduces the risk of stroke in people with AF.
NICE Guidelines have identified that over 50% of patients with known AF were not on an effective medication regime.
GM AHSN’s project, the AF Data Landscape Tool, seeks to standardise at scale a pan Manchester approach to improving the pathway for care for those at risk of an Atrial Fibrillation (AF) related Stroke, reducing stroke deaths by 365 per year. We are also working with our member organisations on AF-related projects in specific areas.
Why are we focusing on this in Greater Manchester?
Atrial Fibrillation is common nationwide, but current data shows us that Greater Manchester has one of the worst rates of stroke, of anywhere in England. For us, therefore, finding a way of identifying early on who is most at risk, who is showing warning signs, and who is missing out on the correct medication – is vital.
“I first heard of AF when my husband was having investigations for a possible stomach ulcer. AF was identified at this point and was described as an irregular heart rhythm. As he was already being treated for high blood pressure, nothing further was done. No one explain the potential risks of AF and no particular treatment was recommended.
The impact on our lives was sudden and profound. Shortly after this diagnosis was made, my husband had a stroke and whilst he was waiting for further tests he had a second stroke. He sustained damage to his vision and was not allowed to drive for a year, and although he is now doing much better, it is likely that receiving treatment for his AF could have prevented both of these strokes.
Once AF has been diagnosed, the patient should be made fully aware of the potential risks and dangers and the treatment available. They should be referred for anti-coagulant therapy if appropriate. I believe that the majority of people are unaware of the connection between AF and stroke until it’s too late.”
Joan Chantrell, Public Experience Group member.
Starting Anticoagulation with Jack
Anticoagulants are prescribed to prevent harmful blood clots that can lead to stroke. They are designed to prevent or treat clots, but can increase the risk of bleeding. Patients and carers need advice and information about how these medicines work, and their potential side effects.
On the behalf of the AHSN Networks our colleagues at Wessex AHSN have produced a new video, 'Starting Anticoagulation with Jack' to meet this need for patients, their family and carers after anticoagulants have been prescribed. It explains about clotting and why abnormal clots can form as people age. The different types of medicines are shown, and Jack and his son talk about Jack’s concerns, side effects and sources of support.
We know that many people taking anticoagulants don't fully understand what side effects to look out for, or when to seek help. Starting Anticoagulation with Jack has been created to prevent people becoming unwell while on anticoagulant medicines, and avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital.
If you want to see more you can follow Jack on Facebook by searching for ‘Starting Anticoagulation With Jack’ or on twitter @StopTheClots.