Firefighters add heart checks to Safe and Well visits

For almost a year now Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) firefighters and advocates have been carrying out Safe and Well visits to the county’s residents aged over 65 or those considered at particular risk.

Currently, people receiving a Safe and Well visit are given advice about slips, trips and falls, bowel cancer screening awareness, smoking cessation and alcohol reduction, with an added initiative in Halton advising on atrial fibrillation.

From Monday 15 January 2018, atrial fibrillation advice will be expanded to everyone receiving a Safe and Well visit in Halton, West Cheshire, South Cheshire and Vale Royal Clinical Commissioning Group areas, as well as information about how to achieve affordable warmth in their homes across the whole of Cheshire.

Head of Prevention for CFRS, Nick Evans, said: “Between 1 February and 3 December 2017 our firefighters and advocates have carried out over 35,000 Safe and Well visits, with 8% of those visits resulting in a referral to health agencies. Without a Safe and Well visit, almost 3,000 people may have suffered adversely through lack of knowing where to turn or through not realising they may have something needing attention.”

The Service has already been carrying out atrial fibrillation checks in the Halton area, as a pilot with Halton Clinical Commissioning Group which received funding from the Innovation Agency – Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, to buy supplies of MyDiagnostick, a mobile electro-cardiograph (ECG) screening tool. Halton firefighters were trained in the use of these.

Further training has been carried out with crews across the county in which they have been given information on the causes of atrial fibrillation and taught how to use the MyDiagnostick. A firefighter will carry out a simple ECG test to assess whether the householder has an irregular heartbeat. Anyone who tests positive is given a leaflet to explain they have been screened for atrial fibrillation by a trained firefighters, given basic information about what it means and advised to make an urgent GP appointment.

Nick continued: “Due to the success of our Safe and Well visits, NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside Sub-Region) has also asked us to undertake some work to help address excess winter deaths in England, in particular by helping identify people at risk from affordable warmth issues as part of a Safe and Well visit. The Service has agreed with the four Cheshire Local Authority Public Health teams that we will ask, as part of a visit, some high level screening questions on the householders’ ability to heat their home. This will identify whether they might be eligible for any benefits or grants to upgrade their heating system or improve insulation. We have also agreed that the referral mechanism will be to an energy efficiency charity called Energy Projects Plus who will directly follow up with the householder and offer help and support.”

Peter Owen, Chief Executive Energy Projects Plus, added: “Keeping warm in your home is extremely important to your health, but not something enjoyed by everyone. The inclusion of affordable warmth screening in the fantastic Safe and Well programme means we can provide practical help to people in need and reduce the level of fuel poverty across Cheshire”.

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