The UK has hit its target to reduce cardiovascular disease by 40% five years early, according to a new report.

Death rates from CVD in the under-75s fell from 141 per 100,000 population in 1995/6 to just 84.2 per 100,000 population in 2005/06, the progress report on the Coronary Heart Disease National Service Framework shows. The report said that a surge in cholesterol-reducing statin prescribing and rapid access to thrombolytic drugs played a large part in leading to the target being met before the 2010 deadline set by the Government.

It shows that prescriptions for statins have more than doubled over the last three years, cutting both mortality from CVD and the yearly number of heart attacks and that in early 2001, 24% of patients received thrombolytisc within 60 minutes of a call for help; now it is almost 70%. Investment in facilities, an increase in cardiologists and heart surgeons and shorter surgical waiting times also contributed to the early achievement of the target, which the Government says is saving 22,000 extra lives per year.

Health minister Ann Keen lauded the achievement. She said: "We have made ongoing and sustainable improvements to the treatment of heart disease that have dramatically reduced mortality rates. This is an outstanding achievement by all NHS staff and I would like to pay tribute to all the hard work and dedication that has made it possible.

"Our substantial investment in this area through the capital programme has made a significant contribution to patients' quality of care by both improving diagnosis and reducing waiting times."

The news came as the Department of Health and the British Cardiovascular Society launched a report examining the feasibility of offering primary angioplasty as the first-line treatment for heart attacks. The report says that direct, or indirect, admission to a primary angioplasty centre could achieve acceptable results. The Government's national clinical director for heart disease and stroke, Professor Roger Boyle said: “The interim results of the study are encouraging and suggest that for a large part of the country, a primary angioplasty strategy is both feasible and would improve patients' outcomes.” By Rob Finch