AF Testing – Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service

Between 2016 and 2020, an NHS programme, led regionally by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), has been delivered across the region to improve the detection and treatment of an irregular heart rhythm known as Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

As part of the programme, a number of initiatives have been introduced to identify and treat those with the condition, including pulse checks for over 65s and those with high risk conditions, mobile ECG devices, and ‘virtual clinics’ involving specialists working with GPs to advise on the best treatment for people with AF.

The AHSN NENC has distributed mobile ECG devices – called AliveCor – within a range of settings across the region and has provided training to more than 1,000 healthcare professionals. These devices are now being used by GPs, practice nurses, healthcare assistants, community pharmacists, specialist nurses, podiatrists, Fire and Rescue Service workers and third sector organisations.

Here, Justin Robinson, from the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), has given an overview of the project success within the fire and rescue service setting.


From 1st April 2017 CFRS moved from delivering a regular Home Safety Visit (HSV) to a Safe and Well Visit rebranding all future visits to “Safe and Well”.

The Safe and Well visit intends to primarily target those residents within the county aged over 65 and registered with a General Practitioner (GP) along with other identified risk groups. After agreement with all interested parties, CFRS’s existing Safe and Well offer includes the following areas:

  • Social Wellbeing
  • Falls Prevention
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Alcohol Reduction

In line with the year 3 (2018/19) IRMP Action Plan, discussions have been taking place with lead members from within Cumbria Integrated Care Communities (ICC). Cumbria ICC comprises of NHS organisations working together alongside local authorities, third sector, social care professionals and GPs, all working as one team to support the health and care needs of the population of Cumbria, with the aim of managing long term health conditions and improving access to information about healthier lifestyles locally.

From these discussions with ICC came an opportunity to expand our Safe and Well offer and provide further support within public health to an area of health that is becoming more prevalent, in particular with those aged over 65 years which is AF.

Actions taken

In March 2018, CFRS embarked upon AF testing in the Eden Area of Cumbria and created a referral pathway with the local ICC Hub for those testing with an irregular heartbeat.

During the summer of 2018 CFRS obtained a funding stream from the AHSN NENC led at the time by Nikki Holdsworth. Nikki introduced CFRS to the AliveCor device which enhanced the delivery of our AF testing further by being able to record the ECG of the householder showing an irregular heartbeat – one of the AF triggers.

With this ECG we agreed with the respective ICC leads that we would send a copy of the ECG record along with our referral either to the householder’s doctors surgery or to the ICC dependant upon the pathway agreement.

The Alivecor device was distributed across our Community Safety Team and is now embedded as a critical part of our Safe and Well offer.

CFRS’s Justin Robinson said:

“Nikki provided the training to our team on a number of occasions to help set up the AliveCor devices on our smart phones and then going through their operation and at the same time ensuring we could navigate all possible outcomes.

“Nikki’s experience, temperament and knowledge was exceptional and helped support the roll out of AliveCor across our Community Safety team, and gave us the confidence to go out and deliver this life-saving health check as part of our Safe and Well visits.”