A practice-based commissioning (PBC) group that developed a local service that tested 35,000 patients for irregular heart rhythms, a strong risk factor for stroke, was awarded the Management in Practice Business Management Award, sponsored by remote access systems specialists Away From My Desk.
Colchester PBC Group developed the PulseBeat scheme, which involved commissioning a large network of GP practices in north-east Essex to take the pulse of every patient over 65 attending for their flu vaccination, with the aim of identifying people with atrial fibrillation (AF).
The scheme proved to be a huge success – 361 new cases of AF were detected, significantly reducing the chances of stroke by up to 70% in this group by prescribing a treatment of warfarin or aspirin. AF carries, on average, a one in 20 chance of stroke.
One in six strokes are thought to be caused by AF. Published research suggests that a large number of patients with AF have no symptoms and are therefore not diagnosed.
"Stroke is a cause of significant disability and death in north-east Essex, partly because of our more elderly population," said Dr Shane Gordon, Chief Executive of Colchester PBC and GP at Tiptree Medical Centre in Essex.
"Our tendering district has the average oldest population in Europe. With treatment, this scheme will prevent about 12 strokes in the next year alone."
The PulseBeat scheme was implemented over six weeks during the 2008 flu vaccination campaign.
The MiP Business Management Award recognises innovation in general practice services. Not only was Colchester PBC Group's project a great success for patient outcomes, but it also proved to be highly cost-effective, with a return on investment of more than 400%.
"This is a fantastic scheme which will save lives quickly, is cost-effective and can be easily replicated across the UK," said Dr Gordon.
Announcing the award winner at a special ceremony at the Birmingham NEC on 6 October, practice manager and finance specialist Jane Gamble (pictured) said: "I was particularly inspired by all the award entries.
"In the end the decision came down to overall teamwork, patient outcomes and also effort. But I would say that we're all part of the future of primary care, so thank you to everybody that everyday goes to work in general practice and achieves similar patient outcomes."