Atrial fibrillation volunteer Wendy Westoby speaks with a member of the public

Volunteer project wins Heath Service Journal award

An innovative partnership which has seen a network of volunteers recruited to help prevent strokes has won a prestigious national award.

The Atrial Fibrillation Ambassadors in the Community project was named Provider Collaboration of the Year in the Health Service Journal awards.

“For me – the personal gain is just ONE person who is positive and is referred to their GP for investigation which will hopefully minimise the effect of AF on their lives,” volunteer ambassador Wendy Westoby said. “It never ceases to amaze me how people generally aren’t aware of how to check their own pulse rate and rhythm.”

Wendy is a patient representative on the Trial Steering Group of Professor Craig Smith’s CHOSEN trial- which is looking at oral health interventions in the early days after stroke.

He  is a Professor of Stroke Medicine at The University of Manchester and a Stroke Consultant at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, as well as stroke theme lead at the Geoffrey Jefferson Brain Research Centre.

The AF Ambassador role was created by the Innovation Agency in partnership with the Stroke Association to prevent strokes – saving lives and avoiding life-changing disabilities. Using portable ECG devices to identify people who may have atrial fibrillation (AF) – an irregular heartbeat which can lead to a life-threatening stroke – volunteers were recruited to help spot friends, colleagues and relatives at particular risk.

It is estimated that in the North West Coast region there are over 20,000 people who have AF. The initiative is predicting to identify over 1,000 new cases of atrial fibrillation during the initial two year campaign which could prevent up to 34 strokes and save more than £750,000 in associated health care costs.

“This award is truly a team effort and I am really proud of our work and the AF ambassadors,” Debbie Parkinson, public involvement lead for the Innovation Agency said: “Detecting AF, helping prevent stroke and saving lives is thanks enough, but this award will help us make more people aware and understand the importance of #knowyourpulse.”