Congress continues to inspire with innovations and information for all
Heart rhythm experts from across the world met at the 10th anniversary of Heart Rhythm Congress (HRC)
– the UK’s biggest arrhythmia specialist event in October. The conference attracted healthcare professionals from across the world with an interest in heart rhythm disturbances. HRC provides education and training to promote diversity and improved technology for professionals involved in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia patients. Held in Birmingham’s prestigious conference venue, the International Convention Centre (ICC), the event ran from 4-7 October 2015. It is the largest heart rhythm event held in the UK and offers an unrivalled opportunity for healthcare professionals, commissioners and service providers with an interest in the management of arrhythmias to network and benefit from shared knowledge and experience in their respective fields of expertise. Showcasing effective practice, innovation, models of implementation, latest developments, HRC offers four days of interaction, learning, networking and sharing. Opening with Patient’s Day on Sunday 4 October, members of the public were able to attend sessions, speak directly with specialists about conditions and treatments, and meet with fellow patients. The benefit of sharing this knowledge is that the patients go away feeling supported, after having gained first hand insight into how various arrhythmic conditions affect the daily lives of their peers, as well as the recognition that they are not alone. This has proved crucial to their understanding and well- being year after year and is one of the congress’s unique and most important aspects.
Heart Rhythm Congress is also the first and only event to provide meetings and educational days dedicated to patients, carers, nurses, physiologists, primary care, policy makers, commissioners, politicians and heart rhythm specialists. The congress is organised by Arrhythmia Alliance, the Heart Rhythm Charity, in partnership with the British Heart Rhythm Society and is also endorsed by the Heart Rhythm Society of USA, the European Heart Rhythm Association and the British Society for Heart Failure.
It was a particularly nostalgic congress, with many respected professionals reflecting on how successful the event has become over the ten years of its presence in the cardiac world, and how much has changed since its inception in 2005.
Championing this sentiment, Dr Boon Lim said of his experience: “I have certainly seen that the programme and agenda which are the strengths of the congress have consistently been at a very high standard. This is what has changed for me personally over the years – Patient’s Day has just gone from strength to strength. Both in terms of content, and the programme that is catered to in terms of patients on an incremental basis. The feedback that is given for the previous year is always taken into account for the next year and this year, 2015, I think we have a record number of patients attending.”
Dr Kim Rajappan added “I have been attending Heart Rhythm Congress since its inception ten years ago. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary now which is a fantastic achievement – I have seen it grow from a meeting in a single room in London, to an international arrhythmia meeting attracting patients and professionals from around the world. I feel very privileged to now be Programme Director. I would like to think we now have an event that addresses five key issues. The first is patients, and involving them via Patients Day. The second is getting the science behind the study of arrhythmias and rhythm management – getting that out amongst the wider population, and highlighting that there is a lot of it happening in the UK, which is somewhat underplayed on the international stage. Thirdly, HRC demonstrates very nicely how advanced all our researchers are. There is no doubt that the transition from science to clinical practice is excellent. Fourth, we get exhibitors who support us financially and scientifically, as well as providing us with early insight into what might be coming through in arrhythmia developments, that can then be used to treat our patients. Finally, and critically, it is a great opportunity to network. Everyone who is involved in any aspect of this particular patient group can get together and discuss ideas in both a formal and informal setting.”
Trade exhibitions took up residence in the main hall throughout the four days with the latest technological developments from device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, and this year was particularly successful with over 40 independent exhibitors attending.
Chair of the HRC Organising Committee and Arrhythmia Alliance Founder, Trudie Lobban MBE, says that the annually held ‘Patients Day’ is a perfect way to open HRC. “We offer patient members from the charities Arrhythmia Alliance, AF Association and STARS (Syncope Trust And Reflex anoxic Seizures) the opportunity to meet experts in their respective heart rhythm field, listen and to ask questions they may not get answered elsewhere, it is also a perfect opportunity for patients and carers to exchange experiences and learn from each other. It is also an opportunity for healthcare professionals to learn from the patients themselves!”
“Patients are better informed than ever before because of awareness campaigns by charities like Arrhythmia Alliance and the scope of the internet. Thus, healthcare professionals find they are being asked technical questions by individuals who are eager to know about advances in arrhythmia care and management. It gives physicians the chance to understand what patients are interested in, and how their care pathway could be improved.”
“Our aim is to renew focus on arrhythmias in healthcare,” continues Trudie. ‘We endeavour to promote the need for discussion and shared treatment decisions. Despite their huge prevalence in the UK, awareness about arrhythmias lags significantly behind other conditions among both the public and some of the medical profession. As a consequence, often patients do not get early diagnosis, treatment and the support they should. This has a huge burden on the NHS, as well as a profound impact on countless families.”
“There are many stakeholders across the patient pathway that could make a difference; from GPs and nurses in primary care, to arrhythmia specialist nurses, cardiologists and electrophysiologists. This is the fundamental premise of HRC. Together, all those involved in arrhythmia care can make a difference through education, discussion and shared best practice.”
Sessions at HRC cover general areas of interest, such as primary care and arrhythmia management, as well as more specialist areas such as the findings from specialist arrhythmia nurse-led rapid-access blackout clinics. The congress also served as a further opportunity to impress the importance of our ‘Now is the Time’ manifesto, and as such, several pledge boards were displayed, prompting delegates to sign in support of it.
Professor A John Camm, President of Arrhythmia Alliance, said of the conference:
“Heart Rhythm Congress is almost unique in the sense that it combines a conference for professionals with a conference for patients. The two do not completely interlock because we have various regulations that prevent that. But we have a day when patients are discussed, and patients discuss themselves the various conditions they have and the new advances. The rest of the congress is really a professional meeting involving electrophysiologists, cardiologists and general practitioners and many paramedical staff such as cardiac physiologists and cardiac nurses. This is a really good conference because it unites everyone under the same roof. We can all talk about the problems we are facing as a profession, particularly with limited resources. We need to economise in the right areas and expand where we need to.”
“In terms of the manifesto, it is very important to sign this – we need to show that we – that is patients, and their carers, are cohesive, unanimous in trying to improve the care for patients with cardiac arrhythmias and this is an important instrument to try and effect that change.”
This year, a number of Professors, Doctors, Clinical Psychologists, Researchers and Specialists were interviewed, and a range of topics were discussed. These informative and insightful film clips will be posted on our websites and social media throughout the coming year, and the hope is that they will provide a reassuring resource for patients to turn to when looking for answers, guidance and support, thus underpinning the focus on patients.
Following Sunday’s Patient meetings, which included being ‘Active with AF – Finding the right balance’, ‘Lifestyle improvements,’ ‘A Doctors Perspective on working with Syncope’ and a special session with Blair Grubb, Monday opened offering over 15 sessions, including four Master Classes, and two nursing sessions. Topics covered included discussion on treating ventricular arrhythmias, optimizing patient outcomes through new workflows and collaborative working, and there were the BHRS Certification Preparation sessions for nurses. Discussing the ‘Worst Case’ with a defibrillator and pacemaker, what happens when devices go wrong, and ‘nightmare’ ablation care were also a point of focus for the panel.
Dr Dhiraj Gupta, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist from Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital commented: “The social side of the congress is great – meeting up with old friends who I have trained but haven’t seen for years because we are all so busy. Interacting with experts in their fields is fantastic.
We are really lucky in the UK because we have some of the world’s top-level specialists here who have given up their time to be at the congress. It’s an opportunity to learn so much from each other. In terms of Patient’s Day, it is simply unique. Not many congresses or medical conferences have a patient’s day. I end up learning more from the patient’s themselves on Patient’s Day than on a daily basis – it makes a difference because we aren’t under the same time pressure as we are in clinic. If I have to spend one day a year, purely dedicated to patients at this congress, I would do it again in an instant.”
The Scientific Programme for this congress continued to evolve, and the lunchtime sessions, always popular, were expanded on with the Cases & Traces sessions and Young Investigators Competition presentations. There was also a significant increase in the number of abstracts submitted from both doctors and allied professionals and a dedicated allied professionals’ abstract session was also hosted. As usual there was an impressive faculty, with a number of international speakers.
Arrhythmia Alliance Founder and Trustee, Trudie Lobban MBE, had much to praise with regards the agenda and focus in providing education to tackle issues associated with sudden cardiac death. She said: “Now in the tenth anniversary year of the congress, the event continues to grow. Abstract submissions continue to expand year on year.”
Trudie continues: “Since the important update to the NICE guideline on the clinical management of AF, the platform to support education around treatment options remains as strong as ever before.”
The congress also featured the President’s Dinner, an event that provides an additional networking opportunity and the chance to reward those who have demonstrated key contributions in heart rhythm research and management.
This year, the Medical Professional of the Decade was awarded to Professor Blair Grubb. Professor Grubb is a distinguished professor of medicine, cardiovascular medicine, paediatrics and Director of Electrophysiology Services. He is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities regarding syncope and dysautonomia, and has published hundreds of journal articles in the field of electrophysiology and autonomic research. Not only this, but he has received a number of prestigious awards for his dedication and commitment to the profession of medicine. This year he has been recognized as one of America’s Top Doctors, which only 1% of doctors in America receive. Professor Grubb is described as having a dignified and quiet demeanour who demonstrates compassion, humility, patience and thoughtfulness in his interactions with staff, colleagues, medical students and patients. He is the quintessential gentleman and scholar.
Dr Joseph De Giovanni from Birmingham Children’s Hospital took first place for the award for ‘Outstanding Individual who has Contributed to Arrhythmia Services.’ Dr Giovanni has been at the forefront of Paediatric Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia care in the UK. He is an inspirational person in this field in that he started the first EP ablation practice and implanted the first ICD in children in the UK.
He has provided excellent service not only for the patients in the UK but also helped similar services to be developed in Europe and beyond Westcliffe Community Cardiology Service won the award for ‘Team of the Year.’ From its conception as essentially a triage service for cardiology referrals from North Bradford PCT, the Westcliffe Cardiology Service has steadily evolved to an innovative service for both patients and clinicians, influencing the wider health environment. Lloyds Berkshire was awarded the ‘Charles Lobban Volunteer of the Year Award’. Lloyds have carried out some amazing fundraising across the country and have given up a huge amount of their time to help place defibrillators in the Berkshire area. This has been through bake sales, coffee mornings, triathlons and marathons. It is clear that this team of people have a huge passion and dedication towards reducing the number of deaths in the UK from SCA. The 2015 Abstract Winners were, for ‘Clinical Devices’, JHP Gamble (presenting author), and for ‘Clinical EP’, NA Qureshi (presenting author).
The 2016 Heart Rhythm Congress will take place at the same venue, The ICC in Birmingham, on 9-12 October 2016. For more information and to register for HRC 2016, please visit www.heartrhythmcongress.org