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Cardiology Patients accessing vital rehabilitation in the comfort of their own homes

Margaret Taggart, Lead Cardiovascular Nurse

Cardiovascular patients in the Western Trust are now able to access the unique ‘Our Hearts, Our Minds’ innovative preventive cardiology programme in the comfort of their own homes.

The programme, designed for patients living with cardiovascular disease or at risk of developing same, took the form of a detailed clinical assessment by a multidisciplinary team (nurse, dietician, exercise specialist), and participants were then invited to take part in a weekly exercise and education programme in local leisure centres. As a result of the COVID19 pandemic, the ‘Our Hearts, Our Minds’ team have adapted to new ways of providing this vital service and are now able to offer patients a virtual programme. This consists of:

  • Video consultations between the ‘Our Hearts Our Minds’ multidisciplinary team and patients.
  • Online videos on key topics for cardiovascular health by the ‘Our Hearts Our Minds’ team.
  • Facilitated weekly virtual interactive sessions between the team and patients.
  • Case management (optimisation of blood pressure and cholesterol, medicine up titration) will continue through liaison with primary care.
  • Use of wearable technology Fitbit to track heart rate and physical activity levels.

Leading the delivery of the programme, Dr Susan Connolly, Western Trust Consultant Cardiologist said: “At the start of the COVID19 pandemic, we were concerned that our cardiovascular  patients could potentially miss out on vital follow up support.

“Over the past month we have been working very hard to find a new way to continue to provide support, guidance and engagement with our patients.

“We are delighted that we are now able to offer an extensive programme, almost identical to what patients previous to COVID19 would have experienced.

“We know from feedback from our patients that this programme has been a lifeline to many, not just on a physical level, but emotionally and psychologically. This is why we have also brought in the weekly interactive virtual sessions, that bring together our patients who can chat to each other, something that has always been a vital element to the programme.”

Karen McCammon, Health Services Engagement Lead at the British Heart Foundation NI, said: “We are delighted to support the ‘Our Hearts Our Minds’ virtual cardiac rehabilitation programme created by Dr Susan Connolly and her team. We know that cardiac rehabilitation reduces the risk of someone dying from heart and circulatory disease, having another cardiac event such as a heart attack or needing to be re-admitted to hospital.

“That is why this new virtual programme is such a vital resource alongside the BHF’s Cardiac Rehab at Home hub in offering practical help to those who need to continue with their all-important recovery in these unprecedented times.”

Visit the Our Hearts Our Minds section of our website to access the new online patient resoures.

First Patient to Start the Virtual ‘Our Hearts, Our Minds’ Programme’

47 year old, Ryan Wallace from Limavady is the first patient to have availed of the new virtual Our Hearts, Our Minds programme. Some weeks ago Ryan had presented to Altnagelvin Hospital with worsening chest pain and was found to have significant narrowing in two heart arteries that were treated with stents.

Key now in his recovery is optimising his risk factors for his heart condition and that is where the ‘Our Hearts Our Minds’ virtual programme is key.

Commenting on his experience of the programme to date, Ryan explained: “It was great to be able to do the assessment in the comfort of my own home, which meant there was no unnecessary risk factors of having to travel for the appointment during the current COVID situation.

“I found the process to be very straightforward and the multi-disciplinary team took their turns to chat to me about making healthy food choices, taking regular exercise and optimising my medication to help manage my condition.

“I was also given a Fitbit to track my daily activity, which I report back to the team and they can keep an eye on me.

“The team are very supportive and I look forward to hearing from other patients during the virtual interactive sessions which are planned in the weeks ahead.”