Heart treatment

3D heart scan technology rolled out as part of NHS Long Term Plan

The NHS is rolling out technology to diagnose and treat around 100,000 patients with suspected heart disease five times faster than normal.

The latest innovation will be delivered as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, turning regular CT scans of a heart into a 3D image. This will allow doctors to diagnose life-threating coronary heart disease in just twenty minutes.

Previously patients would have to go to hospital for an invasive and time-consuming angiogram. This technology will mean patients can now be seen, diagnosed and treated much quicker, offering more convenient care, and helping NHS staff resume other services and tackle the backlog.

The Long Term Plan aims to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes by 150,000.

Once patients are diagnosed using the 3D imaging technology, treatments will include surgery, medication, or having a stent fitted. For less serious cases patients will be given tips on healthy lifestyle changes or cholesterol-lowering medication – meaning the risk can be reduced before it becomes life-threatening.

NHS Medical Director Stephen Powis said: “The NHS Long Term Plan has committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers, as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting edge therapies and techniques.

“By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure - as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history - the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic.”

More people in England will have access to the potentially life-saving technology than anywhere else in Europe, the US or Japan.

Around 100,000 people will be eligible to use the technology over the next three years, with more than 35,000 people expected to benefit each year.

Matt Whitty, Director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said: “This latest innovation will help patients and will contribute to helping the NHS to recover from the pandemic as we continue to deliver on our ambitious Long Term Plan commitments to provide patients across the country with the most up to date tech as quickly as possible.”

Dr Derek Connolly, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust said: “For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow Analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else. Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.

“Incorporating the HeartFlow Analysis has had a meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death.”

The NHS Long Term Plan promised that patients would benefit from faster adoption of cutting-edge technology and treatments.

This latest technology launched across the NHS last month as part of the Long Term Plan’s commitment to support the implementation of proven medical devices, diagnostics and digital products.

Since the Long Term Plan was published, NHS England has rolled out a headache removing device, as well as covid-friendly cancer drugs, and more.

NICE estimates that around 89,300 people with stable, recent onset chest pain who are offered coronary CT angiography - as part of the NICE chest pain pathway - will be eligible for the technology. Uptake will be steady from 2021, with around 35,600 people having the tech analysis each year.


Read a contribution in our NHE digital magazine from last year discussing the technology, written by two of the cardiologists key to pioneering and trialing the technology in the UK

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