Helping to promote cardiac risk in young people

It was humbling to join 50 of my fellow MPs in attending the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) first ever ‘drop in’ session in Westminster. CRY offers research, support and screening for those affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a young person.

I became one of the first parliamentarians to sign a pledge to support a national strategy to prevent sudden cardiac deaths after, 25 year old Amy Osborne, the niece of one of my constituents who had been fit, happy and healthy, died suddenly with absolutely no warning back in 2017. The number of MPs who have now pledged their support total 171.

I am a great supporter of this charity. It provides great comfort and support to bereaving families. I had no idea that as many as 12 fit and healthy young people in the UK die suddenly from an undiagnosed heart defect. In 80% of cases there will have been no signs or symptoms which is why screening, which CRY offers, is so important. It means that, where necessary, preventative action can be taken to avoid the tragic and unnecessary loss of a young life.

Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox, commented “We are continuing to urge all MPs to help establish a national strategy for the prevention of young sudden cardiac death to ensure the government acts to prevent the hundreds of deaths of young people each year from these undiagnosed cardiac conditions.  Any person aged 14-35 can go to www.testmyheart.org.uk to book an appointment for a free heart screening which includes an ECG. CRY also provides the follow up ultrasound test on the same day. CRY now tests around 30,000 young people each year and well over 190,000 since the screening programme was launched in 1995”.

Amy’s aunt, Melanie Gooder, said “My sister in law, Miranda Osborne and I are immensely grateful to CRY for the support it has given our family following Amy’s tragic death. The screening programme is so important because it will identify other young people at risk and save lives. We have started our heart screening programme in Amy’s memory having raised £50k. The first session was in April in her former school, Queen Mary’s, in Thirsk and we have four more days booked in venues around North Yorkshire. This means one hundred young people (aged between fourteen and thirty five) can be screened every day paid for out of Amy’s fund within CRY. We will continue to raise funds and hold screening days in Amy’s memory until it becomes national strategy”.

The Westminster event was held against the controversial backdrop of the recent news that a revised consultation document from the National Screening Committee (NSC) is set to recommend ‘against’ screening for the risk of sudden cardiac death in the young. 

Dr Cox says, “Whilst progress is being made to save young lives, this latest NSC consultation document is very disappointing. It fails to demonstrate the impact of young sudden cardiac deaths on our society and does not objectively evaluate the overlap between the current routine use of the ECG in the NHS/medical practice for general diagnostics and monitoring, and its role in cardiac screening. Furthermore, it fails to stress that 1 in 300 people screened have a cardiac condition that can benefit from treatment or lifestyle advice.”