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3D heart scans on the NHS to speed up disease diagnosis
The NHS is rolling out revolutionary technology to diagnose and treat around 100,000 patients with suspected heart disease, five times faster than normal.
Known as HeartFlow, the latest innovation delivered as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, turns a regular CT scan of the heart into a 3D image allowing doctors to diagnose life-threating coronary heart disease in just twenty minutes.
Previously patients would have to go in hospital for an invasive and time-consuming angiogram. Patients will now be seen, diagnosed, and treated, around five times quicker, offering more convenient care and helping hardworking NHS Staff to get services back on track after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan goal to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes by 150,000.
NHS staff are pulling out all the stops to restore services and tackle the backlog after treating around 400,000 patients who were seriously ill with Covid-19 and millions more besides over the last year. Hospitals admitted more than 100,000 Covid patients in January alone.
Once patients are diagnosed using the 3D image treatments include surgery, medication or having a stent fitted. For less serious cases patients will be given tips on healthy lifestyle changes or cholesterol-lowering medication – meaning the risk is quickly resolved before it becomes life-threatening.
NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: “The NHS Long Term Plan committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting edge therapies and techniques and HeartFlow is just the latest example of that.
“By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history, the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic.”
More people in England will have access to the potentially life-saving technology than anywhere else in Europe, the US or Japan.
Around 100,000 people are eligible to use HeartFlow over the next three years, with more than 35,000 people set to benefit each year.
Matt Whitty, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said: “This latest innovation will help patients and will contribute to helping the NHS to recover from the pandemic as we continue to deliver on our ambitious Long Term Plan commitments to provide patients across the country with the most up to date tech, as quickly as possible.
“HeartFlow has been a huge success in clinical trials and will now help tens of thousands of people a year receive quick diagnosis and treatment and ultimately save lives.”
Dr Derek Connolly, consultant interventional cardiologist at Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust said: “For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow Analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else. Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.
Incorporating the HeartFlow Analysis has had a meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death.”
The NHS Long Term Plan promised that patients would benefit from faster adoption of cutting-edge technology and treatments.
This latest technology has been rolled out across the NHS from last month as part of the MedTech Funding Mandate policy, an NHS Long Term Plan commitment which supports the implementation of proven medical devices, diagnostics and digital products.
Since the NHS Long Term Plan was published, NHS England has rolled out the headache-busting device GammaCore as well as covid-friendly cancer drugs, SecurAcath and more.
Deborah Robb, 68, underwent lifesaving surgery after being diagnosed with coronary heart disease using HeartFlow at University Hospitals North Midlands.
“My GP referred me to the Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic at the hospital and from there I was booked in for a CT scan. It was so quick and easy, it only took about 20 minutes and then all of my appointments after that were virtual.
Not long after I got home from having the scan Dr Duckett rung to tell me not to do anything too strenuous – because they had already been able to analyse the data and had seen the extent of the damage to my heart! Needless to say, this was all quite worrying, but I received such good and speedy care that it made it less stressful for me.”
*NICE estimates that around 89,300 people with stable, recent onset chest pain who are offered coronary CT angiography as part of the NICE chest pain pathway will be eligible for HeartFlow FFRCT. Uptake will be steady from 2021, with around 35,600 people having HeartFlow FFRCT each year.