The Atrial Fibrillation Association has published a new report illustrating how healthcare professionals have found new and innovative ways to improve care and quality of life for people with atrial fibrillation (AF) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The publication marks the start of 'Global AF Aware Week', which runs from the 15-21 November, and hopes to promote key messages about how to spot potentially fatal arrhythmias and ensure they are treated in a timely manner. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected AF services across all regions of the UK

AF is the most common type of arrhythmia worldwide, affecting about 2-4% of all adults. It causes significant mortality and morbidity, with the risk of AF-related stroke being the greatest concern. However, with early detection and appropriate management, these risks can be substantially reduced.

The report highlights how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected AF services across all regions of the UK, with some waiting lists for treatment now two years long. 

The number of AF ablations have dramatically dropped, with the latest Hospital Episode Statistics showing that numbers are now at around 7,000 to 8,000 per year, a decline of 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

Healthcare professionals have been finding ways to detect and correct arrhythmias

The AF Pioneers report outlines how healthcare professionals have been finding ways to detect, protect and correct arrhythmias during the pandemic, as part of the AF Association's strategy to perfect the patient care pathway. 

For example, Lord et al demonstrates how to detect AF using single-lead ECGs in people attending Covid vaccination centres. The researchers performed simple pulse checks while people sat and waited after their vaccine, ensuring no disruptions or delays occurred.

Another team of researchers (Grayson et al) used telephone consultations alongside audit data to ensure people with AF were appropriately anticoagulated while remaining protected from Covid-19.

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and CEO of AF Association, said she hopes the report will inspire healthcare professionals to explore new approaches for detecting and managing the condition.

Focusing on the needs of the individual is the "cornerstone of good patient care"

Professor A John Camm (BHF Emeritus Professor of Clinical Cardiology, St George’s University of London, UK), Trustee and Co-founder of AF Association, said the report "provides examples of how new technologies can be used to address the challenges of Covid-19." 

He said it also highlights that focusing on the needs of the individual is the "cornerstone of good patient care and this is possible even in the context of Covid-19.”