People living with a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder known as Atrial Fibrillation (AF) are missing out or are struggling to access treatment due to a huge backlog in NHS services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. AF Association, as part of Global AF Aware Week (15-21 November), are calling for improved access as there is ‘No More Time To Lose.’
Atrial Fibrillation is a leading cause of stroke, yet simple anti-coagulation drugs can prevent a blood clot forming in the heart which can travel to the brain, causing an AF-related stroke to occur. AF is the most common type of arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder). It is also linked to heart failure, depression, dementia and poor quality of life. AF-related strokes are more debilitating, disabling and in many cases prove fatal more so than strokes of other causes. AF can present no symptoms therefore many people do not discover that they have AF until they have had an AF-related stroke. Like many conditions, access to treatments are delayed due to the backlog from the pandemic which is not just an issue in the UK – but worldwide.
Each year, AF Association hosts Global AF Aware Week (GAFAW) to raise awareness of atrial fibrillation. This year, they will be focusing on the theme: “No More Time to Lose” to address the impact of the pandemic on people with, or at risk of, AF.
The campaign follows the devastating impact that the pandemic has had to AF clinical services in all regions of the UK. Waiting lists for AF procedures have doubled, with some lists now as long as two years. The number of AF ablations have dramatically dropped, with the latest Hospital Episode Statistics showing pre-pandemic figures of approximately 10,000-11,000 AF ablations (UK and Ireland), with numbers now at 7000-8000 per year – a decline of 30% from pre-pandemic levels.
Professor Dhiraj Gupta, Consultant Electrophysiologist from the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, medical advisor to AF Association, says: “In our hospital, we have seen a marked decrease in the number of ablation procedures due the pandemic. I fully support the 2021 Global AF Aware week campaign to help us restore our services and make up for lost time.”
AF Association has previously helped close the gap in delays for the Public Health England long term plan to improve detection for AF – via their Know Your Pulse to Know Your Heart Rhythm – it could save your life campaign, which promotes the need for people to be aware of their pulse and the rhythm of their heart. For more information on how to Know Your Pulse or to download a comprehensive selection of resources, including a supporter toolkit for Global AF Aware Week, information about AF, and how people can get involved in campaigning to raise awareness of AF – visit www.gafaw.org.
Mrs Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and CEO of AF Association, says: “It is imperative that we work in collaboration with the NHS to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. It has had a devastating effect on the delivery of AF services to patients, with AF ablation numbers down in the UK and Ireland by 30%, and an increase in the number of AF-related strokes. AF Association is doing its bit in ensuring the long-term plan to detect more AF and for people to access appropriate treatments, by raising awareness and providing information, support and education. Together, we can ensure people are diagnosed and treated – therefore saving lives.”
About AF Association
Atrial Fibrillation Association is a UK registered charity which focuses on raising awareness of atrial fibrillation (AF) by providing support, information, education and awareness on atrial fibrillation.
AF Association works closely with patients, carers, healthcare professionals, the Department of Health, NHS, PHE, policy makers and all those involved in or affected by atrial fibrillation. All information resources published by AF Association have been approved by AF Medical Advisory Committee and endorsed by the Department of Health.