A ground-breaking project leading to fewer strokes is being rolled out by more than 60 GP practices across Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven.

As National Heart Rhythm Week 2014 gets under way, GPs are continuing to target patients with an irregular heartbeat to cut the risk of having a stroke.

There are more than 6,000 patients in the three clinical commissioning groups across the district living with the potential ticking timebomb of atrial fibrillation, a condition that triggers abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart, which might or might not cause symptoms but always dramatically increases the risk of stroke.

Of those patients, 5,000 are at moderate to high risk of stroke but before the start of the project only 2,300 of them were being prescribed anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin as a precautionary measure, said Dr Matt Fay, GP specialist in cardiology, who led the project.

Now, because of the scheme – believed to be the first of its kind in the UK – hundreds more patients are being targeted and are being prescribed anti-coagulants which will ultimately result in 200 fewer strokes per year in Bradford and district or as many as 10,000 across the UK if the project was used nationally.

Dr Fay said: “This project has resulted in a dramatic positive effect on the health of patients. All strokes are devastating but AF strokes are bigger and potentially lethal.

“However, the good news is that we know when prescribed anti-coagulant drugs, these strokes can be avoided.

“We have always known this yet too many patients are still being given aspirin when they could be given anti-coagulants.

“It’s important that we continue to check patients for irregular heartbeat. That way, if AF is diagnosed, we can make sure they receive the right treatment and medication.”

Abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart can affect four in every 100 people over the age of 65 living in the UK.

For more information on Heart Rhythm Week 2014, go to heart rhythmcharity.org.uk