Atrial fibrillation

Positive experiences of health care for atrial fibrillation

Diagnosis and on-going treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF) brings people in touch with a range of health professionals, including GPs, consultants, electrophysiologists, arrhythmia nurses, and paramedics. We asked people to talk about the positive care they have received. 

Broad praise for the NHS
People spoke warmly of the care they had received from the NHS. James described his treatment ‘by the whole NHS’ as ‘absolutely wonderful’. Martin summed up his care as ‘outstandingly good’ and said that he would not have chosen to have private treatment even if he could have afforded it. George Y congratulated the NHS and his cardiac team, saying that ‘They have taken me as priority. They haven’t side-lined me. They haven’t made small of my case.’ Vera said: ‘I know lots of people grumble about the NHS but I have nothing but admiration for them’.
People spoke of being ‘lucky’ to live in areas which offered good services for people with AF. Jenny found that the staff in a small local hospital were sensitive and supportive of her during her husband James’ treatment for a stroke. She did wonder however whether people might get ‘lost’ in a bigger hospital ‘if you were really elderly or if you didn’t have anybody to speak up for you’.

Praise for the cardiac team
Eileen was impressed with the efficiency of her cardiac unit; a centre of excellence where ‘everything is discussed with you and they do diagrams to show what they’d done or what they would do’. Similarly, Elisabeth X acknowledged her cardiac unit where ‘there’s always someone who’ll talk to you and who you can ask questions’ regardless of how busy they are. Glyn, who experienced problems after having a pacemaker fitted, described his relief at being able to go back the same day to have it checked. Ginny talked about the ‘very professional’ care she had received. In praising her cardiac team, she said, ‘I wouldn’t swap having had AF because I would have missed out on meeting some very professional, charming people who have altered my views in life on a lot of things’. David X described how staff involved him by explaining readings on his heart monitor. He found the team to be very supportive and professional.
Continuity of care made a difference to Eileen who was able to see the same consultant over a period of time. Nuala praised her cardiologists for being ‘very responsive and knowledgeable about what’s available and not available’. Roger was impressed that his cardiologist never hurried him during a consultation.
Bob, who was only diagnosed after moving house to a new area and a new GP, said that he had received ‘brilliant service.’ He said that his cardiologist was understanding and went above and beyond what he expected when he expressed his fears about his diagnosis. He took time to listen, talk with him and provide information. Paul requested an echocardiogram and was reassured when it showed there were no problems with the structure of his heart.
People welcomed the opportunity to be involved in deciding treatment options. In some cases the choice of treatment was clear-cut and people were happy to follow their doctor’s advice. Although Eileen felt ‘pushed’ into having a pacemaker, she admits there ‘probably wasn’t an alternative at the time’. Similarly, when asked if he had any objections to having a pacemaker fitted, Raymond agreed as it would stop him passing out. For others, reaching a decision on appropriate treatment came after discussions with health professionals. When Elisabeth X’s consultant discussed the possibility of having an ablation ten years ago, she decided against it after weighing up the odds of it being successful at her age. She said there was no pressure put on her to have the surgery. (For more see ‘Medical procedures and interventions for atrial fibrillation’).
Praise for paramedics, GPs and arrhythmia nurses 
Some people spoke of the excellent care they had received from paramedics when being taken to hospital with AF. Pauline was monitored in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, with the reassurance that ‘you’ll be okay’. The paramedics who took Jeni to hospital were ‘fantastic’. They were informative, professional and kept her calm.
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The policy of having the ‘door left open’ after treatment was appreciated. GPs and arrhythmia nurses came in for special mention. Describing their GPs as ‘terrific’, ‘excellent’ and ‘fantastic’, people spoke of the support, care and timely referrals they offered. Arrhythmia nurses played a vital role providing essential telephone and e-mail links between the patient and consultant, and offering advice and reassurance between appointments. Jeni’s arrhythmia nurse rings her regularly and has ‘allayed any fears’. Rather than being ‘just a number’ she felt like she had been ‘personally treated’. Chris X said he found it reassuring that even though he had been formally discharged from the care of the consultant, he had the contact details of the arrhythmia nurses who he could call if he had any concerns or changes in his condition.
(See also: ‘Negative experiences of health care for atrial fibrillation’).

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