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Target to cut CHD deaths met five years ahead of schedule

Faster access to thrombolysis, wider use of statins and better facilities save thousand of lives

OnMedica Staff

Monday, 18 February 2008

The national target of a 40% cut in deaths from cardiovascular disease in people under 75 has been met five years early, according to two reports published today. The target equates to an extra 22,000 lives saved per year

The Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) National Service Framework (NSF) Progress Report says that early delivery of the target is due to speedy access to thrombolysis, wider prescription of cholesterol-lowering medication and improvements in hospital facilities.

In early 2001, 24% of patients received thrombolysis within 60 minutes of a call for help; now that figure has risen to almost 70%

And waiting times for heart surgery have dropped dramatically since the inception of the NSF -- no patients are waiting over three months for heart surgery, compared with over 5,500 in 2000.

Prescriptions for cholesterol-reducing statins have more than doubled over the last three years, cutting both mortality from CHD and the yearly number of heart attacks.

The report also reflects on the considerable success of the £735 million Capital Programme in providing world-class facilities for treating patients with CHD.

The programme has provided new and refurbished buildings, equipment and technology, including cardiothoracic centres.   An additional 72 additional catheter laboratories have been provided and 18 others have been replaced.

These new facilities have provided the setting for substantially increased numbers of cardiologists. Latest figures show that in September 2006, numbers of cardiologists increased by 61% and numbers of cardiothoracic surgeons increased 32% since 1999/2000.

The National Service Framework for CHD (March 2000) set out a 10-year framework for action to prevent disease, tackle inequalities, save more lives, and improve the quality of life for people with heart disease.

Health Minister, Ann Keen said: "We have made ongoing and sustainable improvements to the treatment of heart disease that have dramatically reduced mortality rates. This is an outstanding achievement by all NHS staff and I would like to pay tribute to all the hard work and dedication that has made it possible."

Today also sees publication of the interim results of the National Infarct Angioplasty Project (NIAP), a joint study by the Department of Health and the British Cardiovascular Society, which examines the feasibility of offering primary angioplasty as the nation's first line treatment for heart attack.

Currently, thrombolysis is the most common method for unblocking arteries carrying blood to the heart muscle.  An alternative, coronary angioplasty, is widely believed to provide superior outcomes compared to thrombolysis, provided that it can be delivered quickly.

The NIAP interim report presents findings from "real life" services which accord with findings from recent clinical trials.  It has been looking at the practicalities and challenges of offering angioplasty as an emergency treatment in different medical settings and geographical locations across the country.

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