Chief Executive, HEART UK – The Cholesterol Charity
For many years, HEART UK have referred to cholesterol as the Cinderella of cardiovascular disease (CVD) conditions, due to a serious and sustained lack of cholesterol testing across the UK.
While some positive steps have been taken prior to and since the pandemic, such as the inclusion of cholesterol as a focus within the NHS Long Term Plan and in CVDPrevent, there is much still to do.
Cholesterol is not given the attention it should be
A recent review by HEART UK of all integrated care system (ICS) strategies showed that CVD featured in 39 of 42 strategies. However, cholesterol, as a condition, was called out in fewer than half.
Meanwhile, the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), published in 2019, included targets of preventing 150,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next 10 years and increasing the identification of familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) (inherited form of high cholesterol) from 7% to 25% by 2024. To date, though, progress has been glacial and both targets look unlikely to be met.
The Government is also working on publishing a major conditions strategy and have announced this will focus on both primary (before the disease has developed) and secondary (reduce the impact of a disease) prevention. This is all good news and very welcome, but, so far, there is little detail on what this looks like – and of course whether cholesterol will be included.
HEART UK would also encourage all adults to get to know and understand their cholesterol and other blood fat numbers and empower people to be taking appropriate action.
Primary prevention in the community needs more support
More also needs to be done to move the conversation on from secondary prevention to include primary prevention in the community, including within GP practices. This is critical because managing people’s CVD risk early and keeping it as low as possible will help to avoid events happening in the first place. Not only does this save the NHS money, but it also keeps families from being torn apart by an event. A key piece of the puzzle will be formalising the role of pharmacists, who are well placed to lead the charge on cholesterol testing, by building this into their contracts.
The time is now for Government to act; only by doing so can we turn the tide on the threat that cholesterol represents. HEART UK would also encourage all adults to get to know and understand their cholesterol and other blood fat numbers and empower people to be taking appropriate action. A simple blood test is all it takes.