Professor John Deanfield (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science) is to lead a UK government taskforce to identify radical new approaches to prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce pressure on the NHS.
Professor Deanfield has been appointed the first ever Government Champion for Personalised Prevention. He has been asked by Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to explore and expand the role of technology, and new approaches to communication, so that people can better look after their health and reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events.
His taskforce will include expertise on health policy, health technology, behavioural science, big data, and health economics and will develop a set of evidence-based recommendations for a modern, personalised cardiovascular disease prevention service.
The team will explore a range of ideas, including the use of personalised data to better predict and prevent ill health, and look at how the latest health technology could be used to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat key risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.
Cardiovascular disease and its risk factors are major drivers of ill health, economic inactivity and premature death. It accounts for up to 250,000 hospital admissions and around 140,000 deaths in England each year and costs the NHS approximately £7.4 billion annually.
Professor Deanfield, who led a review into the NHS Health Check in 2021, said: “I am thrilled to continue my work with the government on cardiovascular disease prevention. This appointment provides a real opportunity to radically rethink our approach to cardiovascular health and disease prevention and I’m confident we have the right people around the table to do this.
“We intend to build on my recent review of the NHS Health Check and evolve this vision into an ongoing, life-long programme that empowers people to take control of predicting, managing and reducing their lifetime cardiovascular risk.”
The appointment is expected to last at least six months. Professor Deanfield will put forward a series of recommendations to government following his work, which will:
- Identify new ways of predicting, preventing, diagnosing and treating major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, using the latest health technology, intelligence, and data.
- Advise on how individuals, businesses, and public services could be incentivised to support prevention outside of the NHS;
- Predict and manage disease more effectively using personalised data;
- Create new partnerships to innovate the way in which we deliver preventative services, bringing care closer to home and communities; and
- Identify how this vision for cardiovascular disease prevention might impact on conditions with shared risk factors, such as diabetes and dementia.
Steve Barclay said: “Technology is crucial to a forward-looking, modern NHS, and Professor Deanfield’s work will help us understand how people across the country could use it in their day-to-day lives and prevent cardiovascular disease.
“These conditions account for a quarter of a million hospital admissions a year, and costs the NHS billions of pounds – this ambitious project could see real impact on those who suffer from, or are at risk of this disease.”
NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “While NHS action has already contributed to significant reductions over the last three decades, cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of premature death and disability, particularly hitting healthy life expectancy for people in the least well-off areas.
“Finding new ways of combining data and technology with on the ground services has real potential to prevent illness, saving more lives and reducing the cost of cardiovascular disease to the NHS in the long term, so we look forward to working with Professor Deanfield and partners to identify the most promising opportunities.”
To improve further the numbers of eligible people completing the NHS Health Check, England’s cardiovascular disease prevention scheme, a new digital check is being tested and evaluated in Cornwall. This came off the back of the review led by Professor Deanfield in 2021 and a report is expected in 2023.
The government is now exploring how to make a digital NHS Health Check available nationally, alongside the in-person check. The check will help users to take actions to improve their health independently, link to national and local services, and enable general practice to start clinical care where appropriate. This work will tie in closely with the overall vision of the Government Champion for Personalised Prevention.
About 8 in every 10 cases of cardiovascular disease can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, poor diet and smoking. These key risk factors are also associated with a range of other major health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and types of dementia.