New standard of care for people with atrial fibrillation

9th July 2015

A new quality standard to improve the care of people with the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation has been announced by NICE.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has announced the standard for NHS treatment and management of the rhythm problem which can affect people with cardiomyopathy and make them more at risk of having a stroke.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rhythm which can cause a poor blood flow round the body, and increase the risk of blood clots and stroke.

atrial fibrillation

The new standard covers identification, treatment and management of atrial fibrillation in the over 18s. It  is made up of six statements that describe high quality care for the condition.

These statements are:
•    People with a type of atrial fibrillation called non valvular who are identified by their doctor as being at higher risk of having a stroke are offered treatment with a medicine called an anticoagulant to lower their risk of having a blood clot that could cause a stroke
•    People with atrial fibrillation are not prescribed aspirin on its own for preventing stroke.
•    People with atrial fibrillation who are prescribed an anticoagulant have the chance to talk with their doctor at least once a year about the types of anticoagulant they could have and the advantages and disadvantages of each
•    People with atrial fibrillation who are taking a type of anticoagulant called a vitamin K antagonist (such as warfarin) have their anticoagulation treatment reassessed if regular tests show that it isn't working well
•    People with atrial fibrillation who still have symptoms after treatment are referred within four weeks for specialised care that aims to ease their symptoms and reduce their risk of having a stroke or heart failure
•    People with atrial fibrillation who are taking a vitamin K antagonist over a long time are (if appropriate) offered a monitor they can use to help check how well the treatment is working, if they want to use the monitor and can do so. They are also given support by healthcare professionals to use the monitor.

The standard covers adults with both valvular and non-valvular atrial fibrillation unless specified otherwise at statement level. Nonvalvular AF refers to cases in which the rhythm disturbance occurs in the absence of valve problems caused by rheumatic fever or an artificial heart valve.

For more information see the standard here