On December 6, a ground-breaking new project that has seen a group of six pharmaceutical companies work hand-in-hand with one primary care trust to help boost patient care in heart disease will be rolled out in the UK.

The Nottingham City Happy Hearts project is the brainchild of an industry-National Health Service partnership involving Merck-Serono, MSD, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering-Plough, Solvay and Nottingham PCT, which aims to better outcomes for the number one killer disease in the UK.

Under the project, which is equally funded by the industry group and PCT, specialist clinical healthcare assistants will target patients at risk from heart disease, diabetes or stroke, as identified from GP databases, and offer them advice on healthier lifestyle choices and, if necessary, medical intervention. The project is targeting people in the city’s most deprived areas, and so also aims to address health inequalities.

“We believe this project is one of the first of its kind and is a tremendous example of the NHS shifting the focus of healthcare from a ‘sickness service’ towards preventing illness and supporting well-being,” said Dr Chris Packham, Director of Public Health at Nottingham City PCT.

“By working with local people now, we can help keep them healthy and out of hospital, so they will have ‘happier’ hearts and live longer, healthier lives. This innovative approach working with the pharmaceutical industry and people ‘at risk’ of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke, is a key part of our efforts to reduce health inequalities in the city”, he added.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical has played a strong hand in facilitating and supporting the project, the very nature of which is unprecedented, Jan Balmer, Regional Facilitator for the Association’s NHS Outreach programme in the East Midlands, told PharmaTimes UK News.

A new model
“It is completely different from the normal model of joint working between Pharma and the NHS as, traditionally, such partnerships have always been based on the company giving the PCT money and then stepping back, but this is centred on the industry and PCT working together, with equal input into all decisions on every stage of the project from project design through to implementation and evaluation,” she explained. “It’s genuinely a case of Pharma companies wanting to ensure patient outcomes are as positive as they can be.”

As part of the project, the group has jointly developed a whole host of materials designed to raise awareness of the disease and Happy Hearts, including: a patient information leaflet, which will be given to every target patient and displayed in areas where the target population might visit such as pharmacies and libraries; a project backgrounder, providing information to the media and other healthcare organisations; posters; and specially-designed record folders for patients to keep their information in.

Early research indicates that the number of people living in the Nottingham City area potentially at risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke is in the thousands, and it is hoped that, by helping these people to make informed health choices, the initiative could prove to be a useful weapon in fighting the disease.