Research is vital in the fight against heart disease - O’Neill

Date published: 19 September 2016

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today met researchers who are driving forward advances which may one day benefit thousands of people suffering from heart disease.

The Minister was attending an event at Stormont, organised by the British Heart Foundation NI (BHFNI), entitled ‘Join the fight against heart disease: our single biggest killer.’ The event showcased current research and potential solutions to the problems created by cardiovascular disease, which remains one of the biggest killers in the north of Ireland.

Speaking following the BHFNI event, the Minister said: “I was very impressed by the exciting research projects that were presented here today. The importance of research and development (R&D) cannot be underestimated. 

“My Department’s Cardiovascular Service Framework includes a standard that all Health and Social Care (HSC) services promote, conduct and use research to improve the current and future health and wellbeing of our population.  Without the necessary focus on R&D, there cannot be significant breakthroughs in diagnostics, treatment and learning.”

The Minister heard about several research projects including how the heart responds to stresses which ultimately lead to heart failure, which is helping to identify potential new treatments; work with stem cells which also offers the potential to lead to new treatments and the impact of heart disease on the eye.

The Minister continued: “It is important that all strategic partners work together to improve health outcomes for patients presenting with a cardiovascular disease. My Department is committed to providing sustained investment that allows clinical research networks and other infrastructure to grow, and recognises that investment in high quality research in cardiovascular disease is vital.

“We continue to make that investment year on year through the Clinical Research Network, which supports research studies in cardiovascular disease, bringing the very latest international developments in cardiac treatment and care within the reach of many more of our citizens. High quality research into cardiovascular disease is also being carried out in the HSC Trusts and our universities.”

Concluding, the Minister said: “I am committed to continuing to work in close partnership with voluntary organisations in order to provide the best services possible.  I greatly value the contribution made by BHFNI, both in terms of research and in general to our health services.  The dedicated service and commitment of voluntary organisations enriches our health service and provides invaluable support to patients and their families.”

Head of BHFNI Jayne Murray told the audience that more than 225,000 people are currently living with the debilitating effects of heart disease every day in the north of Ireland. She said: “Over the past five decades our research has identified the cause of a heart attack, paving the way for trials of clot-busting drugs to reduce deaths. We have funded many pioneers, including those who introduced heart transplantation to the UK, transformed the care of heart attack patients in our hospitals and revolutionised the treatment of babies born with heart defects. But the fight isn’t over.

“More people die of coronary heart disease here than anything else, it is still our single biggest killer. We need to fund more vital research so that babies born with life-threatening heart problems through to the to the many mums, dads and grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure live long and happy lives with their families.” 

Notes to editors: 

1.    The British Heart Foundation (NI) is the leading heart charity in the north of Ireland, currently investing over £3 million in world leading research at Queens University Belfast. In 2014/15, BHFNI spent over £1 million on prevention, support and CPR training for patients, families and the public.

2.    Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that describes all diseases of the heart and circulation. It includes everything from conditions that are diagnosed at birth, or inherited, to health problems such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and stroke.

3.    There are an estimated 225,000 people in the north of Ireland living with cardiovascular disease. An ageing and growing population and improved survival rates from cardiovascular events could see this number rise still further. Cardiovascular disease causes a quarter of all deaths, around 3,700 deaths each year. 

4.    Media enquires about this press release contact DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0074. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthserviceni

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