Dr Steven Cox’s letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP

Dear Mr Hancock

At the time when the Government is promising significant investments (£1.8bn) into the NHS, recognising the urgent need for greater resources across the board, it is surely only right that immediate priority is given to supporting those areas being currently ‘propped up’ by the charity and voluntary sector.

As such, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is calling upon you and the Government to establish a new national strategy to identify the key areas in urgent need of investment to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths and eliminate the horrendous impact every one of these tragedies has on family, friends and local communities throughout the UK.

Every week in the UK, 12 ‘apparently’ fit and healthy young people (age 35 and under) die suddenly from undiagnosed cardiac conditions. 80% of these deaths occur with no prior symptoms, often at rest or during sleep, with no-one there to help. The only way to save these young lives is to identify the underlying problems that could cause a sudden cardiac arrest. That is why proactive, screening is so vitally important.

One in 300 young people offered heart tests (including an Electrocardiogram (ECG)) will be identified with a potentially life threatening heart condition. The good news is, once identified the condition can be managed through lifestyle changes, treatment and sometimes corrective surgery. Screening is already routine for many young people including professional athletes and those who choose to go into the Army or train to become pilots. In sport, 75% of those identified with serious conditions will be able to return to competition after treatment and/or surgery. The best, international scientific research has shown an 89% reduction in young sudden deaths after screening. The ECG is one of the most important heart tests used within the NHS and CRY believes EVERY young person should have the opportunity to have their heart checked.

When we met on November 6th 2018 you agreed that policies should be consistent across the NHS and the latest review of the evidence would take into consideration what is already routine practice in the NHS.

Unfortunately, as we predicted and warned you at the time, this has not happened.

Bereaved families supporting CRY raise more than £1,000,000 annually to enable the screening of tens of thousands of 14-35 year olds via www.testmyheart.org.uk. These services are open to the public and are being used by GPs, sporting bodies, schools and universities. The same families, driven by grief and a determination to bring about change, are raising a further £800,000 every year to support research into the prevention of these tragedies, funding world leading NHS cardiology referral services for families after a tragedy as well as the essential pathology tests to enable families to understand the cause of their child’s death.

Surely it should not be down to the bereaved to raise the funds to support the newly bereaved families and those at greatest risk.

181 MPs have already signed a pledge (www.c-r-y.org.uk/my-pledge) to help save young lives. They want to see a National Strategy established to prevent Young Sudden Cardiac Deaths because something must be done.

The failure to act to prevent the 600 young sudden cardiac deaths every year is completely unacceptable.

Yours sincerely

Dr Steven Cox
Chief Executive of Cardiac Risk in the Young