UK Government to consider radical new approach to prevent life-threatening cardiovascular disease

  • Professor John Deanfield CBE will explore how people can live longer, healthier lives by using technology, intelligence and data to predict, prevent and diagnose risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • It could help reduce pressure on the NHS by tackling the quarter of a million hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease each year

People across England stand to benefit from a project to identify radical new approaches to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce pressure on the NHS, following the appointment of Prof John Deanfield as Government Champion for Personalised Prevention today [Tues 7 March].

Professor Deanfield – who is a Professor of Cardiology at University College London and led a review into the NHS Health Check in 2021 – has been asked by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to explore and expand the role of technology, so people can better look after their health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Government Champion for Personalised Prevention will lead a taskforce with expertise on health policy, health technology, behavioural science, big data, and health economics. His taskforce will develop a set of evidence-based recommendations to deliver a vision for a modern, personalised cardiovascular disease prevention service.

They 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.

CVD 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.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 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.

The appointment is expected to last at least six months. He 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 CVD prevention might impact on conditions with shared risk factors, such as diabetes and dementia.

Government Champion for Personalised Prevention Professor John Deanfield, CBE 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 of Professor Deanfield builds on the other tech initiatives the government is exploring, including a trial of an NHS Digital Health Check in Cornwall, and the pilot of the Better Health: Rewards app in Wolverhampton which will incentivise people for eating better and moving more.

The news of Professor Deanfield’s appointment coincides with the publication of the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) quarterly NHS Health Check data, England’s CVD prevention scheme.

It shows 677,118 offers were made 271,899 checks carried out in Quarter 3 in 2022/23, up from 300,877 and 136,100 respectively in the same quarter in 2021/22.

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 reduce the cost of CVD 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, 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.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation said:

We warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to prevent cardiovascular disease and that this work will be led by an expert in the field. Tackling cardiovascular disease is one of the best opportunities to save the most lives, as the NHS Long Term Plan makes clear.

This important role could help to unlock innovative new ways to keep people healthy for longer and help to reduce pressure on the NHS at the same time. We are looking forward to working with Professor Deanfield in his new post.

About 8 in every 10 cases of CVD can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such 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.

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