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A team of volunteers has been recruited in Lancashire to help spot friends and relatives at risk of a stroke.
They have taken on the role of AF Ambassador to identify people who may have atrial fibrillation (AF) – an irregular heart rate which can lead to a life-threatening stroke.
The AF Ambassador role has been created by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, in partnership with the Stroke Association.
One in five strokes is caused by AF and the North West has one of the highest AF related stroke rates in the UK. Each stroke costs the NHS and social care services around £24,000 in the first year alone. However, it is also a condition that can be easily treated.
As part of its programme of regional stroke prevention initiatives, The Innovation Agency is spreading the use of the latest pulse testing technology to detect irregular heart rhythms.
The volunteers have been trained and issued with AliveCor Kardia devices - portable Electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors which attach to the back of a mobile smartphone and display a heart rate reading on an app.
AliveCor’s technology captures the heart rate of the user in just 30 seconds and shows an alert if the user’s heart rate is outside the normal range.
When this happens, the Ambassador will advise the person to visit their GP as soon as possible and can email an ECG trace to the user’s doctor or send it to the person themselves so they can show it to a healthcare professional.
Dr Julia Reynolds, Head of Programmes and lead for AF at the Innovation Agency, said: “Our new AF Ambassadors will help to spread the word about AF in Lancashire and raise awareness in their communities to reduce strokes. This technology is really easy to use and our volunteers can often reach a wider range of patients than traditional health services.”
A number of the volunteers work for Johnnie Johnson Housing, a not-for-profit housing association dedicated to offering quality homes for independent living for 5000 residents in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
Julie Parker, Independent Living Coordinator, has signed up to be an AF Ambassador and is looking forward to testing pulses.
Julie said: “JJ Housing is committed to residents ‘living longer and living better’ so any initiatives to match that saying are welcomed by all staff.
“I am very impressed with how quick and easy it is to operate and how useful and beneficial this is to the whole community.
“It will help save lives and enable people to live longer and have a better quality of life. Plus, it saves the NHS time and money which can be used for other patients with different ailments.”
Fellow Ambassador Sue Whittaker from Blackpool added: “I have tested my colleagues at Royal Mail with no positive results to date and feedback has been really great.
“It’s always good to introduce an innovation which helps keep the staff safe so I am happy to provide a useful service while supporting the NHS.
“I have found the kit easy to use and because the test only takes seconds it doesn't delay staff during busy operational times.”
The Innovation Agency is recruiting more volunteers to become AF Ambassadors in Lancashire to test people’s pulses in their communities and anyone who would like to get involved should call Debbie Parkinson or call on 01772 520250.
Pictured: Lancashire AF Ambassadors with Debbie Parkinson, Dr Liz Mear and Dr Julia Reynolds.