The Welsh Government has this week unveiled a new framework to help the National Health Service improve the prevention and management of heart disease in the country.

Heart disease is a major killer in Wales; the most significant cause of heart-related ill health and death is coronary heart disease, and although death rates in the country have been falling over the last 30 years, they remain around 15% higher than in England. 

In addition, death rates vary significantly across Wales, with that in the most deprived fifth areas almost a third higher than in the least deprived fifth, highlighting the significant impact of poverty on health and the urgent need to address the situation.

Moreover, while coronary heart disease is a largely preventable cause of ill health and death, figures show that major risk factors remain high, with 23% of adults in Wales reporting smoking and 57% of adults classed as overweight or obese.

The Heart Disease Delivery Plan provides a framework for action by Wales' Local Health Boards and Trusts to prevent avoidable heart disease and plan and deliver high quality person-centred care for those affected by the disease.

"Local Health Boards must take local ownership and put effective plans in place to help prevent avoidable heart disease and deliver well-coordinated services, where specialised care is well connected to local services, providing better patient experience and outcomes", said health minister Mark Drakeford.

The over-riding aims of the plan, the government said, are for people of all ages to have as low as possible a risk of developing heart diseases and, where they do occur, an excellent chance of living a long and healthy life, wherever they live in Wales. 

Ultimately, the country should also have incidence, mortality and survival rates for heart disease which are comparable with the best in Europe, it stressed.

Key themes

The government's report encompasses seven key themes, which include: the timely detection of heart disease; the delivery of fast and effective care; improving information systems; and a commitment to research, delivering improved prevention and treatment options.

Commenting on the report, Mike Holden, Chief Executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said community pharmacy has a key role to play in disease prevention and support for patients. 

"The combination of accessibility and expertise makes pharmacies an ideal location for preventing heart disease," and "Local Health Boards and Trusts should take these attributes into account when commissioning new services," he stressed.