Skip to main content

Atrial Fibrillation

Volume 573: debated on Tuesday 14 January 2014

NHS England is responsible for promoting awareness of atrial fibrillation among health care professionals, and the new NHS improvement body, NHS Improving Quality, is encouraging GPs to detect and manage atrial fibrillation by promoting the use of GRASP-AF risk assessment tools. My hon. Friend will know about that as it is supported by the all-party group on atrial fibrillation, which recently published a helpful report on AF. I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend and his colleagues on that.

What steps are the Government taking to improve the uptake of National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence-approved medicines and alternatives to warfarin for the treatment of atrial fibrillation to reduce the incidence of AF-related stroke?

NICE has issued technology appraisal guidance to the NHS on the use of newer anticoagulants—I think there were three in 2012—for the treatment of atrial fibrillation. NHS commissioners are legally required to fund treatments recommended by NICE in its technology appraisal guidance.

Mr Speaker, there is a crisis here. The fact is that half of those who suffer from AF—as a member of my family does—do not know they are suffering from it and are not diagnosed. If they are not diagnosed, that leads to great expense to the health service because they are very prone to having a stroke. Even when doctors know about AF, they say inappropriately, “Have an aspirin as part of your medication.” Some 25% of doctors recommend aspirin, and that is very dangerous. When will the Minister wake up? AF is a dangerous condition and it is very expensive.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is a serious condition, which is why GPs need to take it extremely seriously and ensure that they look at the tests, and particularly at those who are susceptible to AF. We will get new NICE guidance in the summer on some aspects of self-monitoring, which will be an opportunity to remind all clinicians of their responsibilities.

There is a community resuscitation strategy for the whole of Northern Ireland, and my constituents in Strangford, the Ards peninsula and Crossgar have examples of that. Will the Minister consider a community resuscitation strategy for England and Wales, similar to the one we have in Northern Ireland? It would help in this case.

I am happy to look at that. It is obviously an NHS England responsibility, but I will ensure that I draw its attention to the scheme that the hon. Gentleman mentions in Northern Ireland.