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GPs to screen under-35s for sudden cardiac death

GPs will have to screen

hundreds of thousands of patients under 35 for the risk of sudden cardiac death under a new Bill currently before Parliament.

The Government has already taken steps to implement the substance of the Bill, which could include a new chapter in the national service framework for coronary heart disease.

The chapter would set new standards and targets for arrythmias and sudden cardiac death, which kills up to eight young adults per week, to include when GPs should refer to specialists.

GP heart experts welcomed the move but called on negotiators to ensure GPs are properly supported and paid for the work.

The Cardiac Risk in the Young (Screening) Bill will require GPs to refer patients with relevant symptoms, including breathlessness and frequent faintness, or a family history of genetic heart defects to a specialist.

Dari Taylor, MP for Stockton South in North Yorkshire, who presented the Bill to parliament, said too many cases were slipping through the net 'undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or diagnosed but not treated'.

Heart tsar Dr Roger Boyle will chair a working group to drive future policy on arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. The group will also issue guidelines specifically for GP to raise awareness of the relevant signs and symptoms.

Dr Boyle said: 'The majority of people with the underlying conditions do not have any symptoms. However, the condition can lead to sudden and unexpected death, often in early adulthood. It's vital that we attempt to understand this condition further.'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said about 700,000 people in the UK suffered from arrhythmia.

Those at risk of sudden cardiac death included one in 500 young adults with hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies and an estimated 112,000 people with disorders of the electrical conduction system within the heart, such as Long QT Syndrome.

Dr Anthony Cummins, a GP at the Wallasey Heart Centre in the Wirral, said it was difficult to identify people at risk from sudden cardiac death purely by fainting and breathlessness.

By Brian Kelly

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