Taking the lead in reducing AF related strokes

Tony Jamieson YHAHSNTony Jamieson
Clinical Lead Medicines Optimisation and National Lead for the AHSN Network Atrial Fibrillation Community

I consider myself to be a very lucky man. I get to work with intelligent, hard-working and inspiring people every day. People who want to continuously improve the care and well-being of everyone they encounter just because it feels to them to be the right thing to do.

This could not be more true of anyone than it is the people I work with on Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

This insidious problem of irregular heart rhythm causes real problems. Every year one in 20 people with Atrial Fibrillation would have a debilitating, life destroying stroke. This is a tragedy.

But we are making it a tragedy for many fewer people than it currently is. The people I work with want to prevent as many of these strokes as possible. Together with Public Health England we, the AHSN Network’s AF Community, aspire to prevent 5,000 AF related strokes over the next five years. We have engaged a wide range of innovations to achieve this goal.

We are collaborating across England to combine these innovations into a rich, diverse and effective set of tools, methods and experiences that will enable commissioners and clinicians deliver great care for people with AF.  We have innovations that have demonstrated great impact already.

Examples include:

  • Our support to commissioners underpinned by data and partnership with the pharmaceutical industry
  • Methods to diagnose AF in patients who do not know they have it
  • Support for general practices to find, see, treat and inform AF patients and ways that help community pharmacists ensure that patients get the best effect out of the essential clot-preventing medicine they take

So, it was with great pleasure that I have been able to present the opportunities for community pharmacy at the Pharmacy Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I was able to show how the work led by one of the London AHSNs, UCLP, can get pharmacy teams involved with the detection of AF. I was also able to talk about the work of Wessex AHSN which is collaborating to produce a set of competencies for pharmacists in AF and anticoagulation. The toolkit for New Medicines Service on anticoagulants produced by my AHSN in partnership with Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire and Pfizer proved to be a very popular resource at this event.

One of the most exciting areas to be involved in is precision medicine. This uses genetic sequencing to customise therapy for patients and has been shown to be a fantastic addition to our innovations. The Innovation Agency in the North West of England and North East and North Cumbria AHSNs have led the field in this area and we were privileged to have the eminent geneticist Prof Sir John Burn as the key-note speaker at the symposium offered by the AHSN Network AF community at the Heart Rhythm Congress in October.

I like to think that for anyone, anywhere in England, who is working to reduce the incidence and severity of stroke, then the AHSN Network AF community is superbly positioned to help them go further and faster than they have been able to go previously.

So, if you are working with Atrial Fibrillation and want to feel as lucky as I do, get in touch with me or your local AHSN and see what can be achieved together.