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Atrial fibrillation

Strokes are a major cause of death and disability in the UK. Up to a third of strokes are caused by blood clots that form as a result of an irregular heartbeat, particularly atrial fibrillation (AF). These AF-related strokes also tend to be more serious, and have greater impact on patients’ lives than non-AF strokes.

In patients with known AF, anticoagulants can be used to significantly reduce the risk of a stoke occurring. The diagnosis of AF is therefore a key step towards preventing strokes.

Under our atrial fibrillation programme there are three workstreams;

  • DETECT – Increasing the detection and diagnosis of AF in the population (case finding).
  • PROTECT – Increasing risk assessment and anticoagulation of people diagnosed with AF.
  • PERFECT – Improving the quality of anticoagulation and supporting people to self-manage aspects of their AF.


We have implemented the DETECT phase of this programme, supporting the drive to identify greater numbers of people living with AF through the distribution of AliveCor Kardia devices. The roll-out of this national programme is currently being evaluated by Wessex AHSN.

To support the evaluation and to get full benefits from the devices it is key that they are registered. If you have an AliveCor Kardia device and have not yet registered it, please do so here and ensure you select ‘West of England AHSN’ as the provider.


Once a patient has been detected as having AF, their risk of stroke can be reduced by taking anticoagulants.

Don’t wait to anticoagulate (DWAC) is one model for improving rates of anticoagulation that was previously used in the West of England. It aims to inform patients with AF of the benefits of taking anticoagulant medication and features a range of toolkits for clinicians, pharmacists and patients to support shared decision making. Within the West of England, DWAC has been implemented in Gloucestershire and Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire. These projects are currently being evaluated by the University of the West of England.

We are working with Swindon, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Groups to identify a suitable education programme for improving treatment rates for AF.


This phase of the programme will launch in 2019.


Statistics poster for DETECT, PROTECT, PERFECT for the West of England

The three London AHSNs have worked collaboratively with the London Clinical Network to develop an interactive toolkit, designed to guide healthcare professionals and commissioners through the steps and resources required to improve the detection and treatment of people with AF. Download the toolkit here.

Wessex AHSN have developed this video, ‘Starting Anticoagulation with Jack’ to meet this need for patients, their family and carers after anticoagulants have been prescribed. It explains about clotting and why abnormal clots can form as people age. The different types of medicines are shown, and Jack and his son talk about Jack’s concerns, side effects and sources of support.

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