GP chronic care tools 'will save lives'

A new generation of software tools to help GPs improve care for chronic diseases will save lives and boost QOF scores, according to NHS experts.

GPs could prevent 1,000 strokes a year by using a software tool for AF management
GPs could prevent 1,000 strokes a year by using a software tool for AF management

NHS Improving Quality (NHSIQ) has launched a software tool for COPD management following a successful AF scheme, and plans to roll out a heart failure tool later this year.

Hundreds of lives could be saved and NHS costs reduced if more practices started using the free tools, NHSIQ said. They can also help GPs to earn QOF points.

Hilary Walker, head of programmes for preventing premature deaths at NHSIQ, told GP: 'The provision of this AF tool can help support GPs in their appropriate management. It helps save lives, and saves the NHS and social care money: a win-win for everyone involved.'

She added: 'We've just launched the tool for COPD, and we're currently testing the tool for heart failure. We hope to roll that out in the late summer. It will be a suite of tools, building on the success of the AF tool.'

The Guidance on Risk Assessment and Stroke Prevention for Atrial Fibrillation (GRASP-AF) tool was initially developed by the West Yorkshire Cardiovascular Network, the Leeds Arrhythmia team and data company PRIMIS.

The software scans practices' electronic records for details of patients' history of AF, comorbidities and medication. It can prompt the GP to review a patient's current management, which may include prescribing oral anticoagulation therapy to lower their risk of stroke.

PRIMIS software also centrally collects anonymised data for national benchmarking.

At least 2,476 GP practices in England now use the tool, which has already prevented an estimated 134 AF-related strokes since it launched in 2009.

NHSIQ predicts an extra 1,000 AF-related strokes a year could eventually be prevented if all 8,123 practices in England adopted the tool.

The new GRASP-COPD tool allows practices to audit COPD management against current NICE guidance, and spot undiagnosed patients so they can be treated earlier. This aims to improve outcomes, reduce waste and avoid inappropriate treatment.

NHSIQ will also appoint local 'champions' to encourage other GPs to start using the tools.

Ms Walker said: 'They will be evangelists for the tools, recommending to GPs that it's free, easy to use and benefits patients. There are also QOF points that GPs can benefit from if they identify patients with AF. It's support for areas that GPs need to be focusing on.'

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