Survey findings slammed by 'Cardiac Risk in the Young' group

An organisation working to raise awareness about cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac deaths in young people has slammed the findings of a new survey which shows that 97 per cent of health trusts do no have a strategy in place for tackling the issue.

The survey, published by Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), indicates that one year after the publication of specific guidelines relating to arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death, which claimed the life of Tyrone GAA star, Cormac McAnallen, in 2004, only three per cent of trusts have moved to implement them.

CRY was instrumental along with other campaigners for securing the implementation of the guidelines into the National Service Framework, which sets out how NHS services should identify people who are at increased risk of sudden cardiac death and how to assess them and their families to reduce their chances of dying from an arrhythmic condition.

It also sets out best practice for those diagnosed with a potentially life threatening condition, and their families, to receive appropriate counselling, advice, information and psychological support.

The survey of trusts, GP's and general public reinforces concerns by CRY that no significant progress has been made to address the 400 unexplained sudden cardiac deaths of young people every year. Some 84 per cent of GP's interviewed said they had experienced a young sudden cardiac death in their practice which suggests that the real number of young deaths is considerably higher than those officially logged.

Accurate statistics are not available. In the UK unexplained sudden death is frequently recorded as death from natural causes, and the law does not require further examination of hearts by the coroner.

Raise Awareness

CRY has been working to raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young, since its inception in May 1995.

Founder and chief executive, Alison Cox, is frustrated by the lack of progress since the guidelines were introduced last year.

"The research we had commissioned confirms our worst fears – that very little has been done to address what we perceive to be a growing problem in young people. Electrocardiogram (ECG) testing in the young is vital if we are to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths, but this needs to be followed up with a referral to a cardiac specialist.

"Although nearly 70 per cent of GP's said they had an ECG machine in their practice, rather worryingly, nearly two thirds of all GP's interviewed said they would not refer people who have had an ECG on to a cardiologist for diagnosis. It is this level of expertise which should be accessible to all and is vital if specific cardiac problems are to be properly identified and young lives are to be saved."

CRY's robust campaign to raise awareness of young sudden cardiac death is proving effective – 65 per cent of the general public are aware that the condition is something which can affect people aged 35 and under, and significantly, nearly 30 per cent knew of a young person who had died from an unexplained or sudden cardiac death.

Both samples of trusts and GP's, 78 per cent and 82 per cent respectively, said that where a young member of a family (35 and under) dies as a result of an unexplained or sudden cardiac death, they would approve or refer other members of that family to be seen at an Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Clinic.