Earlier this month, the West Midlands Familial Hypercholesterolaemia Service (WMFHS) launched.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) hosts five Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) specialist nurses, who will deliver the service throughout the West Midlands region.
WMFHS is the country’s first region-wide screening service which will see all relatives of people diagnosed with FH given the opportunity to be tested for the condition.
The primary-care based service means GPs and other consultant medical staff will be able to refer patients with FH to the specialist nurses.
FH is an inherited condition, passed down through families and is characterised by high cholesterol levels.
It is the main inherited cause of early heart and circulatory disease if left untreated.
If it is thought that an individual has FH but a genetic test comes back as negative, permission may be asked to pass contact details to the 100,000 Genomes Project team, who are currently looking at new causes for genetic conditions.
UHB is the lead organisation for the West Midlands Genomic Medical Centre, one of 13 GMCs established by NHS England.
The launch of WMFHS means that if someone living in the West Midlands has an usually high cholesterol level their DNA can be tested for FH genes. Screenings for FH can also be arranged, when appropriate, for individuals who have had premature cardiovascular disease.
WMFHS is the result of a partnership between NHS England, the 22 West Midlands’ Clinical Commissioning Groups and the British Heart Foundation, and could prevent hundreds of premature heart attacks and strokes
Elaine George, WMFHS Clinical Programme Manager, said: “Once diagnosed, FH is a manageable condition with cholesterol-lowering drugs and lifestyle changes.”
“The support of UHB, the British Heart Foundation, NHS England and the CCG’s has been incredible, and we couldn’t have launched this service without them.”