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
30 November 2020
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.
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.
Future focus: Fionnuala’s thoughts on how optometrists can step up to provide clinical careWe are all aware of the increasing pressures on the NHS, more so than ever during a global pandemic. Cheshire LOC would like to use this pilot to demonstrate to NHS commissioners how optometry practices are able to be part of the wider plans for the NHS in providing joined-up care with an emphasis on prevention. Making every contact count is part of the NHS longer term plan, which helps improve the health and wellbeing of the wider population. The cost of a screening programme such as this rolled out across all optometry practices would be negligible in comparison to the health and social costs for stroke victims. The numbers of undiagnosed AF patients in the population is very low but if we can identify and help prevent even a couple of strokes it would be amazing.