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Atrial fibrillation pilot begins at five East Cheshire optical practices

Optometrists will be involved in a screening programme that aims to detect a major risk factor for ischaemic stroke


Cheshire LOC has worked together with the East Cheshire health transformation team and NHS England to set up a year-long pilot that aims to identify undiagnosed cases of atrial fibrillation (AF) among patients.

The pilot, involving five optical practices, began the screening programme at the start of Global AF Aware Week (16-22 November), with another practice expected to join the initiative shortly.

Practices involved in the pilot use a device that runs from an app and takes less than a minute to give a result.

Cheshire Local Optical Committee chair and optometrist, Fionnuala Stott, told OT that putting this device in optical practices offers an ideal opportunity to screen patients over the age of 60 with a rapid, non-invasive procedure.

Ashley Burrows
Practice manager, Ashley Burrows, uses the AF screening machine at Wendy Diddams Knutsford practice.

Three possible results are given from the screening: suspected AF, normal, or unreadable. An unreadable result should be repeated three times, while those with a suspected AF reading will be advised to see their GP.

“All local GP practices are aware of the pilot and are ready to investigate further the health of those patients identified,” Ms Stott said.

She emphasised that AF is a “major risk factor” for ischaemic stroke.

“The aim of the pilot study is to identify undiagnosed AF and prevent related strokes and associated mortality through better, and earlier, identification and management,” Ms Stott highlighted.

Carrying out AF screening in optical practices provides an opportunity to screen patients who might otherwise be missed in other general health settings, she added.

“There is an increased risk of AF in the over 65 age group, making optometry practices an ideal setting to capture these adults who are likely to attend for more regular eye examinations due to presbyopia,” Ms Stott said.

The practices that are currently involved in the pilot are Wendy Diddams Knutsford, Norden Riley Knutsford, Bramwells Holmes Chapel, Specsavers Congleton, Wheeldon’s Wilmslow and Oldbury, with Cruickshank Macclesfield joining later this month.