Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 10:24 UK

Action plan to cut sudden death

The aim is to halve the death rate from heart disease and strokes by 2010

Defibrillator machines could be installed at airports and railway stations in a bid to cut heart deaths.

A Scottish Government action plan has also targeted getting more people into stroke units to improve survival rates.

And greater focus is to be put on tackling inherited heart conditions, especially in young people.

Ministers believe they are on target to reduce premature death from heart disease by 60% and stroke by 50% by 2010, compared to 1995 levels.

The comprehensive strategy detailed the measures NHS Scotland will take to further cut premature death from stroke and heart diseases, ranging from encouraging patients to adopt healthier lifestyles to improving cardiac and stroke treatment and longer-term care, and boosting staff skills.

While NHS treatment continues to improve, factors such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity remain a threat and we must do all we can to tackle them
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

The symptoms of a stroke will be highlighted more to encourage people to treat it as a "brain attack", on a par with a heart attack.

Cardiac rehabilitation services will also be improved, for example by holding more local gym sessions for recovering patients, as well as "at risk" people who may not have suffered a heart attack.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the big reductions in heart disease and stroke deaths in recent years illustrated that these are, to a large extent, preventable conditions.

But she warned that the progress was in danger of levelling out unless the health services continued to raise its game.

Ms Sturgeon said: "While NHS treatment continues to improve, factors such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity remain a threat and we must do all we can to tackle them.

"This ambitious plan, containing nearly 70 specific action points around prevention, treatment and long term support, means we can build on our achievements in a way that confronts head-on the challenges we face."

'Excellent opportunity'

The plan was welcomed by Marjory Burns, chief executive of British Heart Foundation Scotland.

"We are particularly pleased to see strong commitments in the Action Plan to extend the provision of cardiac rehabilitation, something that BHF Scotland has long campaigned for," she said.

David Clark, chief executive of Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, said: "We have seen death rates from heart disease and stroke drop by nearly half in the last ten years.

"This new strategy provides an excellent opportunity to take this to the next stage by improving the quality of life for people who survive heart disease and strokes."

Maddy Halliday, Scotland director for the Stroke Association, said the action plan's emphasis on rehabilitation and recovery was "very positive" as the quality of life for stroke survivors can be significantly improved if they receive effective rehabilitation and support once discharged from hospital.

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