From the heart

Susan Jamieson (centre) with patient Janette Barker
Susan Jamieson (centre) with patient Janette Barker

Cardiac physiologist Susan Jamieson, founder of Specialist Cardiac Diagnostics, on how her home-based heart-scanning service is helping local NHS patients stay out of hospital

Five years ago, Janette Barker’s life was turned upside down when she suffered a stroke.

Following medical treatment, she began the long process of recovery, but in late 2019 she started to gain weight quickly and was experiencing shortness of breath – prompting concerns about her health.

It was at this point Janette, aged 70, was referred by her GP to my home-based Waltham Forest

Echocardiography Service, for a detailed scan of her heart. The service, the only one of its kind in the country, provides quick, easy access to scans, usually within just a week of a referral in the patients’ home.

We can reduce the stress of waiting for a hospital appointment or visiting a community-based clinic and, with the results made available on the same day, any treatment required can start straight away. The service is available seven days a week so patients can be scanned in the evenings and over the weekend at a time that suits them.

Janette’s husband Simon explains: “As Janette has limited mobility and requires support to get about, if we had needed to go to the hospital for the scan it would have been really difficult.

“As it was, thanks to the service being provided at home, the scan identified fluid on the heart and the doctor was able to start treatment straight away.

“Janette’s health improved and she felt much better. Having this service in the home rather than the hospital made such a difference for us.”

The service is usually requested by a GP when someone displays symptoms that indicate possible problems with the heart such as shortness of breath, ankle swelling or a fast or irregular heart rate. It is also used to assess the valves in the heart if the GP has heard a murmur.

Janette was referred to us because she was gaining weight and becoming breathless, but the following day I called at the couple’s home in Chingford and was able to carry out a scan immediately.

This service is just one example of how NHS healthcare in north-east London is changing. Services are being redesigned to ensure they are easier to access, closer to home and provide a better experience for the people using them. This also has benefits for local GPs and other health professionals.

Dr Shahid Dadabhoy, a GP in Chingford, said: “I care for a significant number of housebound people with conditions such as heart failure and heart disease who struggle to access the many tests that are essential for their diagnosis and ongoing management.

“Patients love the idea that such a sophisticated investigation can be done at home, quickly and conveniently.”