Press Release – 4th March 2005
25,000 Lives Saved By Speedier Heart Treatment
The NHS has delivered substantial progress on the promises it made to tackle the biggest killer in England today – heart disease.
At a conference of heart experts and patients today, Health Secretary John Reid said that over the last six years:
- premature deaths from heart related disease have reduced by 27%;
- 25,000 lives have been saved;
- the proportion of people treated with clot-busting drugs after a heart attack has risen from 24% in 2000 to 54%;
- the number of people receiving cholesterol busting drugs has increased to 2.5 million from about 300,000;
- the NHS has cut waiting times, so that from next month no one will wait for more than three months for bypass surgery or angioplasty.
At the Coronary Heart Disease Collaborative Conference, in Birmingham, John Reid said:
“We have come a very long way in the first five years of our strategy for heart disease. Death rates in the under 75s have fallen by more than 27% since 1996. On treatment, we are seeing an historic growth in prescribing drugs for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which is estimated be saving 9,000 lives each year. And, by the end of this month, we expect that no-one will wait more than three months for a heart operation.”
Mr Reid also launched a new drive to reduce the number of deaths from unexpected and sudden cardiac death syndrome, which currently claims the lives of about 400 young and apparently healthy people each year.
The measures form a new chapter to the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease. The chapter also sets out new measures to improve treatment for cardiac arrhythmias – irregular heartbearts – which affect over 700,000 people in England and cause one third of all strokes.
John Reid said:
“Today’s report shows that we have the capacity to go even further to better the lives of people with heart disease. We can now introduce measures to improve diagnosis, treatment and support for the 700,000 people who suffer from palpitations, loss of consciousness, dizziness and breathlessness associated with arrhythmia, and to help reduce the number of people who go through the trauma of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.
“It is devastating for families when a young and seemingly healthy person dies without warning. Screening family members will help to prevent these tragic and unnecessary deaths. I want to pay tribute to the efforts of organisations such as Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), Arrhythmia Alliance, the Cardiomyopathy Association and SADS UK as well as MP Dari Taylor (right) who have all been instrumental in helping to raise awareness of the issue.”
The new chapter is based on the advice of expert groups (chaired by Roger Boyle – left), made up of patients, families of people who have died of sudden cardiac death and clinical experts in the field. The recommendations include introducing genetic testing in cases when a sudden unexplained cardiac death occurs.
Since this is largely an inherited condition, close relatives of those who have died can themselves be at risk. If a risk is found, patients will be treated by a high-tech implant that will help prevent further tragedies.
The new chapter is published alongside a five-year progress report on heart disease, Leading the Way, which sets out the remarkable progress that has been made on all aspects of care for heart disease. It points to rapidly falling death rates, narrowing health inequalities, tumbling waiting times and improvements in diagnosis. It also sets out a new focus for improving rehabilitation services and care for people with heart failure over the next five years.
Commenting on the new chapter Alison Cox, Chief Executive of CRY, said:
“CRY welcomes today’s announcement and believes this is a good start towards gaining wider access to screening for young people.
“Too many young people are still needlessly dying from these tragic conditions and we will continue to work alongside the government to ensure we achieve greater awareness, screening and improved diagnosis. These conditions cannot be cured but can be treated, and sudden death prevented, if diagnosed in time.”