Practices should check for heart valve disease during flu jab visit, say GPSIs

GPs should use flu jab clinics as an opportunity to screen elderly patients for heart valve disease while they are in the surgery, according to GP cardiology experts.

Guidance launched by charity Heart Valve Voice, written by GPs, says GPs should ‘routinely’ use a stethoscope on patients over 65 to detect the murmurs associated with heart valve disease.

GPs should take advantage of patients visiting the practice at the time of the flu jab, NHS health check and new patient registrations to perform checks, it recommends.

The two key recommendations are designed to ‘ensure primary care physicians are better equipped’ to handle valve disease without overwhelming them at a time when they already face ‘immense pressures’.

On average, GPs use their stethoscope on less than two fifths of patients presenting with symptoms of heart valve disease, despite it being one of the first key protocols in detecting it, the guidance said.

Heart valve disease

The guidelines are the first to recommend best practice for dealing with heart valve disease. Dr Matt Fay, a Bradford GP with special interest in cardiology and joint author of the guidance, called on NICE to look into the disease.

'It is important that NICE introduces guidelines on heart valve disease, since this will ensure that greater priority is given at CCG level to this treatable disease,' he said.

'If, in addition, appropriate funding is available to allow annual auscultation of all over 65s, we can ensure that more patients receive timely detection, referral and treatment.'

Over 1m people in the UK over the age of 65 are affected by heart valve disease and cases are often under reported because many patients simply put symptoms down to ageing.

If left untreated, life expectancy for patients with severe symptoms can be less than two years.

Photo: Gerry McLoughlin/UNP

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

Hospital entrance

NHS England issues warning over norovirus and rising winter pressures

Almost three times as many people were in hospital with norovirus last week compared...

BMA Northern Ireland GP committee chair Dr Alan Stout

Northern Ireland GPs face deepest-ever crisis as practices hand back contracts

Northern Ireland's GP leader has warned that general practice in the region is facing...

GP consulting room

GP appointments hit record high of over 34m in October

GP practices delivered a record 34.3m appointments in October this year excluding...

GP consultation

New contract that enforces continuity would make GPs and patients safer, says watchdog

A new GP contract that makes continuity of care an 'essential requirement' for practices...

GP receptionist on the phone

Some practices to receive funding to upgrade digital phone systems

GP practices whose digital phone systems do not meet new NHS England standards will...

Woman using mobile phone

Safety issues with remote GP consultations 'extremely rare', study shows

Safety incidents are 'extremely rare' in remote GP consultations but risk is higher...