Improve atrial fibrillation care to stave off 11,000 strokes every year, GPs told

Improve atrial fibrillation care to stave off 11,000 strokes every year, GPs told

Using data from NHS Improving Quality’s GRASP-AF audit tool, the report estimates that just over half of people with atrial fibrillation are getting drug treatment in line with new best practice guidelines issued by the National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE). Full implementation of these guidelines could prevent 28,000 strokes every year and lead to overall savings of £293 million for the NHS in England, and £1.7 billion over a lifetime perspective, it says.

Warfarin is the main anticoagulant used in the UK to prevent blood clots from forming in the heart. Were it to be prescribed for all people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, in line with the NICE guidance, a further 11,626 strokes would be avoided, saving an estimated 3,200 lives, the analysis indicates. This would also save the NHS an additional £124m per year. But current prescribing of warfarin is only half of what it should be.

Approximately 900,000 people in England have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes an irregular heartbeat and which carries an increased risk of stroke and heart failure. People with the condition, and who are assessed as having the highest risk of stroke, should be offered anticoagulation, says NICE. The analysis is based on data from GRASP-AF, an audit tool developed by NHS Improving Quality in conjunction with PRIMIS, and supplied free of charge to the NHS in England.

Over one third of GP practices across the country use the tool to help them manage the care of patients with atrial fibrillation in a bid to curb their risk of stroke. The current report is based on data from over 1,000 GP practices that ran the audit in 2011-12.

Commenting on the report, Hilary Walker, Head of NHS Improving Quality’s Living Longer Lives programme, said: “We know that effective anticoagulation really reduces the risk of having stroke. Data from the GRASP-AF audit tool shows us that currently not everyone is being managed as well as they should be. This is putting patients’ lives at risk and costing the NHS and social care millions of pounds every year.”

She added: “GP practices can use the GRASP-AF tool for free to quickly identify patients who have, or might have [atrial fibrillation], and check their management plan. We encourage all GP practices not currently using GRASP-AF to download the tool and start to audit their care of people with [the condition].”

GPs in England can start using GRASP by signing up for free PRIMIS Hub membership

* Marion Kerr. Costs and benefits of antithrombotic therapy in atrial fibrillation in England: An economic analysis based on GRASP-AF. Insight Health Economics for NHS Improving Quality

by Caroline White

OnMedica, Thursday 30 October 2014

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