Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke


19 February 2018


The scandal of patients at high risk of stroke being left untreated

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has called for urgent action to treat a group of patients who are five times more likely to have a stroke.

“Many patients who have been identified as having a type of irregular heartbeat known as Atrial Fibrillation are not receiving any treatment and are at a high risk of having a stroke,” commented Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser for the leading local health charity.

Speaking at a seminar at Stormont organised by NICHS, Mr Johnston urged the Health Department to act:

“People with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) become five times more likely to suffer a stroke.[1]  AF prevents blood flowing properly through the heart.  This disruption allows clots to form which can travel to the brain causing a stroke.”

Mr Johnston called on the Department of Health and the 5 Health and Social CareTrusts to make plans to review the treatment of the 30,000+ patients in Northern Ireland who have been identified as having AF.

“AF-related strokes are more severe and cause greater disability than strokes in patients without AF[2]. We have treatments available to help us to try to avoid these devastating strokes – and currently we are leaving thousands without treatment. It simply doesn’t make sense.”

“Properly used, existing treatments are effective and could prevent AF-related strokes, saving hundreds of lives and millions from the health service budget.  For example, when anticlotting therapy is used appropriately it is highly effective; lowering stroke risk by about two-thirds in AF patients[3]

Mr Johnston revealed that it had recently been discovered in England that around half of patients with known atrial fibrillation who have a stroke have not received anti-coagulation treatment before their stroke.

“We know who many of these AF sufferers are. It is imperative that we take action to ensure they are being appropriately treated as soon as possible – before they have a stroke.”



[1] Wolf PA, Abbott RD, Kannel WB. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: the Framingham Study. Stroke 1991;22:983–8


[2] Marini C, De Santis F, Sacco S et al. Contribution of atrial fibrillation to incidence and outcome of ischemic stroke: results from a population- based study. Stroke 2005;36:1115–19


Lamassa M, Di Carlo A, Pracucci G et al. Characteristics, outcome, and care of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation in Europe: data from a multicenter multinational hospital- based registry (The European Community Stroke Project). Stroke 2001;32:392–8


[3] Lip GY, Lim HS. Atrial fibrillation and stroke prevention. Lancet Neurol 2007;6:981–93


Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser


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