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Heart progress trumpeted by Labour

Published on 09/03/05 at 12:10pm

The government has trumpeted its progress on tackling the UK's biggest killer, cardiovascular disease, and launched a new chapter of the coronary heart disease National Service Framework.

Progress in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease has been one of the clearest areas of NHS improvement during Labour's current term but looks set to be overlooked during the election, with waiting lists and hospital cleanliness already grabbing the headlines.

A five-year progress report Leading the Way highlights the NHS' achievements, claiming that 25,000 lives have been saved, while the new chapter introduces measures to reduce deaths from cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), which affect over 700,00 people in England and cause one third of all strokes.

Speaking at the Coronary Heart Disease Collaborative conference in Birmingham, Health Secretary John Reid said: "We have come a very long way in the first five years of our strategy for heart disease. Death rates in the under 75s have fallen by more than 27% since 1996." 

He added that about 9,000 lives were being saved each year through expansion in statin treatment from 300,000 to 2.5 million people.

In addition, those taking clot-busting drugs after a heart attack had risen from 24% to 54% and waiting times for bypass surgery or angioplastry would be down to no more than three months by April.

Dr Reid said screening of family members and genetic testing for arrhythmias would be introduced - in the latter case if a risk is found, a high-tech implant would be used to prevent further deaths.

The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is just one of the patient organisations working with the government on the new initiative, the group raising awareness of the 400 young people that die each year from cardiac death syndrome.

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