11th Heart Rhythm Congress: Most Successful To Date

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder & CEO, Arrhythmia Alliance

Heart Rhythm Congress continues its annual growth

Heart rhythm experts from across the globe met at the 11th Heart Rhythm Congress (HRC) is the UK’s only conference devoted to arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders). 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), from 9-12 October 2016, the largest heart rhythm event held in the UK, HRC offers unrivalled opportunity for healthcare professionals, commissioners and service providers with an interest in the management of arrhythmias.

The Congress continued its year on year numbers growth with over 3,000 delegates attending over the four days, with more oral abstracts presented, posters submitted and an International Faculty of over 170.

Congress call to action

Unfortunately, arrhythmias are still looked upon as ‘cinderella’ conditions with many patients in the UK struggling to get access to the most innovative and effective management and treatment they deserve. The goal of Heart Rhythm Congress is to enable healthcare professionals, patients, carers, industry, allied professionals and advocates to share learning and best practice, working together to improve the overall detection, management and treatment of all arrhythmias and reduce the thousands of unnecessary deaths that occur each year in the UK.

Arrhythmia Alliance Founder & CEO, Trudie Lobban, MBE, raised her concerns on the eve of the Congress, "This year, more than ever, we urgently need to see more concerted action taken in the UK to address the devastating effects of arrhythmias on individuals, their families and on society as a whole. Arrhythmia Alliance is committed to working in partnership to help:

  • Dramatically reduce the 11,600 AF-related strokes and 2,500 deaths that happen every year, and identify over half a million people in the UK who do not even know they have atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder.
  • Ensure more lives are saved from sudden cardiac arrest – the UK's leading killer with up to 100,000 people dying each year – more than lung cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDs combined. We have more public access defibrillators available than ever before – a simple device that anyone can use to help save someone's life, however more are needed to make them as commonplace as fire extinguishers. We must now turn awareness into action."

Congress overview

Unlike any other conference, HRC is still the only event to provide meetings and educational days dedicated to patients, carers, nurses, physiologists, primary care, NHS management and Commissioners, and heart rhythm specialists. This year this was extended to include sessions for Pharmacy and Academic Health Science Networks.

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. This year sessions were beamed live into the exhibition area and recordings of the plenary session and keynote speakers have been placed onto the Arrhythmia Alliance website to reach and benefit an even wider audience.

A trade exhibition runs throughout the four days with the latest technological developments from device and pharmaceutical manufacturers on show, together with interactive demonstrations so that healthcare professionals can get real hands-on experience.

Patients Day – A unique experience

Chair of the HRC Organising Committee, 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.

“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 vision is to make arrhythmia a household name and 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. Consequently, often patients do not get early diagnosis, treat­ment and the support they need. 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.”

Following Patients Day, the professional part of the Congress ran over three days including sessions on:

  • Improving Arrhythmia Management
  • AF Outcomes Outside the Lab
  • Master Class Devices
  • Syncope and POTS

In addition, there were oral abstract presentations over two days and the largest number of poster presentations received to date for the Congress. This year’s plenary session was very well attended with standing room only as the audience listened to presentations on ‘Optimum Arrhythmia Patient Care – 2016 and beyond’.

The Case for Screening for Unknown AF to prevent Stroke

The session on screening for unknown AF was one of the major highlights of the Congress with a faculty of International speakers boldly making the case for national screening programmes to identify people with undiagnosed AF.

Professor Ben Freedman OAM, Heart Research Institute, University of Sydney, Australia, presented the latest evidence to the Congress, “Recent studies have shown that in 9% of all ischaemic strokes, AF is only detected after the stroke has occurred. AF is often asymptomatic, and therefore unknown in a large proportion of people who have it. If we could detect AF before stroke occurs by screening, and give anti-clotting medication, many strokes could be prevented.”

“From our studies using a single time point we identified that 1.4% of people over the age of 65 have unknown AF, and that if left untreated, these patients, believed to have ‘benign’ AF, have an annual risk of stroke between 3-4%. We believe that this data added to the knowledge from a number of international registries, combined with studies on community-based screening reinforce the need for the screening of people over 65 years of age to detect unknown AF “, continued Professor Freedman.

Pharmacists lead on early detection of AF

The Pharmacy workshop focused on the unmet need in detecting AF across the Globe and how the many undiagnosed patients can be found. The workshop included a review of new technology devices that will make AF detection easier in the future and diagnosis more accessible, Professor Ben Freedman, Sydney University, shared his experience in Australia and the role and value of Community Pharmacists in early detection, and Sotiris Antoniou, Consultant Pharmacist, Bart’s Hospital, London, shared learnings from a recent UK study that ensured a pathway from identification to treatment.

Arrhythmia Alliance Awards, Healthcare Pioneers and the President-Elect of BHRS

This year’s awards were announced at the President’s Dinner:

  • Arrhythmia Alliance Award for Outstanding Individual who has Contributed to Arrhythmia Services:
    Professor Ben Freedman, Heart Research Institute, University of Sydney
  • Arrhythmia Alliance Team of the Year Award:
    Cardiac Rhythm Management Team, Oxford University Hospital
  • Arrhythmia Alliance Charles Lobban Volunteer of the Year Award:
    Gaynor Richards for her work supporting ICD patients

There were a record number of entries submitted for this year’s Healthcare Pioneers report and such was the quality of the entries that the numbers that will be published in the forthcoming 2017 edition will now be ten strong – the final report will be launched during Global AF Aware Week (21-27 November 2016).

Finally, it was announced that the new President-Elect of BHRS (British Heart Rhythm Society will be Professor Richard Schilling, who is also Medical Director of Arrhythmia Alliance.

Diary date for 2017

The 2017 Heart Rhythm Congress will take place at the same venue, The ICC in Birmingham, on 1-4 October. For more information and to register for HRC 2017, please visit www.heartrhythmcongress.org