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Case study: Getting to the heart of reducing stroke risk

The healthcare challenge

Atrial fibrillation (sometimes referred to as AF or A-Fib) is a heart condition that causes an irregular, often abnormally fast heart rate. It is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting around 1 million people in the UK.

Although not usually life-threatening in itself, AF increases the risk of having a stroke – a risk that can be reduced by anticoagulant medicines. But although evidence has shown that AF strokes are more likely to result in serious strokes and long-term harm, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates that 46% of high-risk AF patients are not currently anti-coagulated.

Solution/outcomes to date

We carried out a project to develop stroke prevention in primary and second care and help patients make evidence-informed decisions about their care. The Don’t Wait to Anticoagulate project aims to increase the use of anticoagulation medicine and improve the management of atrial fibrillation patients.

11 GP practices across the West of England were selected to test the models and quality improvement methods to determine which approaches are most effective and easy to use.

A suite of information materials and toolkits have been developed to assist patients and clinicians; with feedback being positive. The innovative nature of the programme has been recognised nationally: in November 2014 we were invited to present this work to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Atrial Fibrillation.

Support from the West of England AHSN

We have worked closely with representatives of all seven Clinical Commissioning Groups across the West of England to develop four innovative care models, designed in partnership with patients, GPs, atrial fibrillation charities, pharmacists and nurses, anaesthetists, stroke specialists, and cardiac physicians.


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