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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 11:40 GMT
Heart death 'may be eradicated'
Clot-busting drugs can save lives
Premature death from heart disease in England could be almost unheard of within a decade, the government's heart tsar has predicted.

Dr Roger Boyle said improvements in treating heart disease could in theory make deaths from the condition in people under 65 very rare.

Figures show that in 1990 more than 90 men under 65 per 100,000 died of heart disease. By 2000 the figure was 50.

If the trend continues it could reach almost zero by 2013.

Deaths among women under 65 have also shown a steady decline, from around 25 per 100,000 in 1990 to around 10 in 2000.

Projecting this rate of decline into the future is difficult, as growing trends such as obesity, inactivity and high cholesterol levels will have a negative impact on any decline in coronary heart disease.
Professor Jeremy Pearson
Dr Boyle warned that continuing progress depended on at risk groups accessing medical care. He also warned that factors such as increasing rates of obesity and diabetes may stall progress.

However, he said the standard of care was now so advanced, that most people at risk could be helped.

A spokesman for the Department of Health added that Dr Boyle was alluding to preventable deaths, and that there would always be people who died from the condition without warning.

The heart tsar joined forces with Health Secretary John Reid on Wednesday to launch a report on the progress that has been made since the introduction of the national service framework on coronary heart disease four years ago.

The report shows that deaths from cardiovascular disease fell by more than 23% between 1995/97 and 2000/02.

Clot-busting drugs

It also reveals that the number of heart attack patients who receive life-saving clot-busting drugs within 30 minutes of hospital admission in England has doubled.

The report shows that 80% of heart attack patients now receive thrombolysis drugs within half an hour. This compares with just four in 10 in 2000.

The quicker thrombolysis drugs are administered, the better the chances that the patient will make a good recovery.

The report also says that 1.8m people are now receiving cholesterol-lowering statin drugs - saving up to 7,000 lives every year.

And it predicts that by the end of March no heart patient will be waiting over six months for an operation - compared to over 2,700 waiting more than six months in 2002.

New service

Mr Reid also announced 1m funding to examine the feasibility of providing a national angioplasty service within 24 hours of hospital arrival.

Angioplasty is a surgical technique used to widen blocked arteries in patients who have had a heart attack.

The health secretary also said that from April 2005 patients will be given the choice of where they have surgery as soon as they are told that they need an operation, instead of having to wait six months for that option as at present.

Mr Reid said: "Seven years ago, cardiac services were in a terrible state.

"Patients could wait years for diagnosis and over two years for surgery.

"Few people suffering a heart attack were getting the right treatment at the right time and those needing life-saving drugs did so through good fortune rather than a good system.

"Today's report shows that, thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, we're making real progress in delivering better cardiac services.

"Fewer people are dying and emergency care is vastly improved."

Peter Hollins, director general of the British Heart Foundation, said: "The announcement that heart disease death rates in the under 65s are falling was excellent news.

"However, it would be wrong to conclude that heart disease will be abolished by 2013.

"This ignores the ticking time bombs of obesity and growing inactivity which could halt the decline of heart disease.

"These major risk factors for heart disease must not be ignored.

"Neither the public, the medical community, nor the government can afford to become complacent about heart health."

Heart disease is the biggest single killer in England.

Every year, 110,000 people in die from coronary heart disease (CHD) and 275,000 people have a heart attack.

The BBC's Vicky Young
"Every year, a quarter of a million people in the UK have a heart attack"

Heart attack care 'has improved'
18 Jun 03  |  Health
Heart policy 'saving thousands'
03 Mar 03  |  Health

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