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More help to fight heart disease and stroke

14th March 2011

New online tool shows variation in mortality rates and risk factors for heart disease and stroke across the country

A new tool to help the NHS better treat cardiovascular disease in every area of the country was launched by the Department of Health today.

The online tool, compiled by the South East Public Health Observatory, allows for comparisons across the country in a bid to drive up standards and better target resources.

The tool has been developed so that local health services can assess the impact of cardiovascular diseases on their local populations. It also shows the quality and availability of services, and where a stronger focus on prevention could improve outcomes for patients. The NHS will be able to use the detailed local picture it provides to better understand the burden of cardiovascular disease and compare it to the England average.

It shows widespread variation in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease across England, with a higher incidence amongst people who live in deprived areas.

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the main cause of death in the UK, causing around a third of all deaths in England. The tool shows that while overall mortality rates have improved considerably, variation on indicators, such as smoking, obesity and diet is still too wide.

The tool is available online and easy to use. Key figures from this show:

  • Mortality rates for cardiovascular disease in England, including heart disease and stroke, have decreased - but this varies from over 55% in Sunderland, Mid Essex and Hartlepool, to around 40% in parts of London and the East of England.
  • Mortality rates from cardiovascular disease are still much higher amongst people who live in deprived areas and in 2009 were more than 2.5 times higher compared to those people who live in the least deprived areas in England.
  • Estimates of adult obesity vary from around 15% of the population in parts of London to around 30% in areas such as Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool.
  • Poor diet is widespread in every area with less than 50% of people eating enough fruit and vegetables, falling to around 20% in parts of the North East.
    Access and response times to improve treatment of heart attack has contributed to the fall in mortality, with people now receiving more active treatments – such as clot busting drugs or angioplasty - to increase blood flow to the heart in the early stages of a heart attack. There is an average time of between one and two hours from calling for help and receiving these treatments.
  • Most stroke patients will be admitted to hospital and the death rates from a stroke within 30 days of that admission vary, from Lewisham and Hackney with low rates (144 per 1000), to Knowsley and North East Lincolnshire, with rates twice as high.

Professor Roger Boyle, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said:

“These profiles offer a snapshot of where we need to focus efforts to improve these services. They are a sobering reminder of the public health challenges around poor diet and obesity. But different parts of the country can learn from each other too, which is part of the importance of making this data publicly available.”

Health Minister Simon Burns said:

“People with long term conditions such as cardiovascular disease are the biggest users of the NHS, accounting for 50% of GP appointments and 70% of inpatient hospital beds.

“We need to modernise the NHS to drive up standards across the country and provide these people with the best outcomes possible. We also need to tackle prevention - it is clear that the old ways of tackling public health problems have not always delivered the necessary improvements, and these figures show significant variation on factors like obesity and healthy diets.

“We are putting in place a public health service - Public Health England - that will give local people the money and the power to improve our nation's health. And as part of Change4Life, we are encouraging people to make simple changes, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.”

Dr Max Kammerling, NHS Consultant in Public Health Medicine, from the South East Public Health Observatory, comments:

“The overall national picture is very positive, with an established trend of fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases, and improved access to, and wider adoption of better treatments. However, a closer look at the data uncovers hotspots which show higher mortality rates amongst people who live in socio-economically deprived areas. The challenge for local health services will be to continue to direct efforts to reaching those communities, working with them to reduce the major contributors to developing cardiovascular diseases, such as smoking, obesity and poor diet.

“We hope that the cardiovascular profiles will be an invaluable tool in supporting local health services to understand the impact of cardiovascular diseases, as well as develop services that continue to improve health outcomes for their local populations.”


 

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