GPs should screen all over 65s for stroke risk, experts urge

GPs must be asked to 'urgently' begin screening for AF, a leading cause of stroke, to prevent 2,000 deaths a year, according to experts.

Stroke specialists from across the UK called for a national screening programme at a meeting of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in Edinburgh.

Over 5,000 strokes and 2,000 deaths could be prevented in the UK each year by checking patients' pulses, they said.

The UK National Screening Committee is reviewing the evidence for AF screening and is set to announce its decision this month. Currently, it does not recommend AF screening.

Under the RCP proposals, GPs would opportunistically screen all patients aged over 65 years by radial pulse checking. Those with irregular pulses should then have a 12-lead ECG.

Experts said aspirin has proven to be 'ineffective' in preventing stroke in AF and should not be used as an alternative to anticoagulants. They believe that patients currently prescribed aspirin for AF should be reviewed and offered anticoagulation or have aspirin withdrawn.

In addition, they argued that the use of anti-coagulant drugs must increase, and there must be a wider discussion of the benefits and risks of treatment.

They argued that the use of anti-coagulant drugs must increase, including a discussion of the benefits and risks of treatment.

Dr Scott Ramsay, RCP member and consultant in stroke medicine, said: 'The goal of treating AF is primarily to reduce the current unacceptable levels of avoidable stroke and the disability and premature death it causes.

'This is an issue of national significance and we have reached consensus that the most effective way of doing this would be for national screening programmes to be introduced throughout the UK for all people over 65 as a matter of urgency.'

Patients with AF are five times more likely to develop a stroke and be at risk of premature death.

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