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Dr Raj Thakkar

GP and National Primary Care Cardiac Pathways,
Co-Lead NHS England

Early detection, preventive measures and lifestyle changes are key steps in helping tackle the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reducing the risk people have of heart attack and stroke.

Primary care, patients and the wider community all have a critical role to play in working together to reduce the burden of CVD.

Long term plan

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out clear milestones in preventing up to 150,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next decade, as well as improving community first response and access to cardiac rehabilitation.

However, Dr Raj Thakkar, a GP and National Primary Care Cardiac Pathways Co-Lead at NHS England, underlines the importance of prevention within this.

“In the UK, there are about 7.6 million people with CVD and with an ageing population CVD prevalence is going to increase,” he says. “But this is largely preventable. If people with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure are identified early and managed effectively, we can significantly reduce the burden of disease on patients, and indeed on health and social care.”

In the UK, there are about 7.6 million people with CVD and with an agieng population CVD prevalence is going to increase.

Early detection

People in deprived areas and those with severe mental illness are more at risk of CVD, but by controlling high blood pressure, for example, across a population of 50,000 patients, it is estimated that regular blood pressure monitoring at home could prevent up to 500 heart attacks and 745 strokes over five years. Dr Thakkar says that early detection of those at risk of CVD is crucial.

“This is a massive opportunity to improve the health of the nation,” he says. “CVD impacts on people’s quality of life, makes them more dependent on the NHS and their families and has a health and social care cost of £7.4 billion each year.”

CVD prevention – a shared responsibility

It is fantastic, continues Dr Thakkar, that there is an emerging shared purpose to empower patients to focus on CVD across the broader primary care network including pharmacies, social prescribers and the wider community including employers, creating an integrated mechanism for delivery of cardiovascular health.

“We need to empower patients and teach them about focusing on cardiovascular risk factors such as checking blood pressure, and the value of smoking cessation and weight loss.”

COVID-19 affected cardiovascular health with patients avoiding hospitals and a rise in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, yet it also saw an increase in digital innovation such as remote monitoring with patients checking blood pressure at home and undergoing cardiac rehabilitation digitally, it’s essential to build on that to reduce CVD and ease pressure on the NHS.

PP-UN-CAR-GB-0044 / September 2021

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