Rates of CVD are closely linked to health inequalities and these have widened during the pandemic. Lockdowns and other government restrictions are likely to have exacerbated unhealthy behaviours and patients are likely to have had less contact with healthcare professionals, leading to lower detection rates for CVD risk factors such as hypertension and atrial fibrillation.
Many CVD risk factors are picked up through standard face-to-face primary care appointments, and these have been significantly reduced during the pandemic. NHS Health Checks were also paused for several months. In addition, fewer patients presented with heart attack and stroke during the early phase of the pandemic, which suggests that some cardiovascular issues went unreported and people did not access care, including advice on preventing future health problems.
Now a broad alliance has come together to produce a package of tools to help reverse this trend through a whole system approach.
The practical guidance includes best practice case studies from across England. It is aimed at those responsible for planning or delivering CVD prevention programmes within Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
It has been produced in a collaboration between the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN), the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH).
The authors are planning a webinar early in 2021 to further share good practice and ideas, spread innovation and reduce variation.
Professor Gary Ford, Chief Executive of the Oxford AHSN, said: “Cardiovascular disease is a major driver of health inequalities – and effective treatment has been one of the major drivers of health improvement in recent decades. Major opportunities still remain to improve the population’s health through better treatment of CVD risk factors. We hope our new guidance will help system leaders improve CVD prevention measures following during and after the pandemic.”
Dr David Hargroves, national GIRFT lead for stroke and a consultant stroke physician at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is crucial that the NHS urgently addresses CVD prevention as part of the response to Covid-19. We know that fewer patients presented with heart attack and stroke during the early phase of the pandemic, but late treatment or no treatment for these conditions will have a negative effect. We hope this guidance helps teams get back on track with CVD prevention work, offering innovations and good practice to emulate in their work with patients.”
This is the latest in a series of guides produced by the Oxford AHSN and GIRFT during the pandemic. Previous guidance covered:
- CVD prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic: a guide for primary care (with the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society)
- Restoration and recovery of stroke services during the Covid-19 pandemic (with the British Association of Stroke Physicians)
- Adapting stroke services in the Covid-19 pandemic (with the British Association of Stroke Physicians)