Our Hearts Our Minds Official Launch


Our Hearts Our Minds Official LaunchChanging your lifestyle for the better is much easier, more enjoyable and longer lasting when you can do it with the support of your partner/relative. This is one of the simple, yet effective key concepts from a new and innovative preventive cardiology programme launched by the Western Trust.

The ‘Our Hearts, Our Minds’ programme is a unique 12 week programme which is part of Northern Ireland’s  Heath Transformation agenda. It was launched today at the South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen by the Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Richard Pengelly and Chief Executive of the Western Trust, Dr Anne Kilgallen. Designed especially for patients living with cardiovascular disease or at risk for of developing same, the new programme is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and is based on research carried out in Imperial College, London.

Patients are referred onto it by their general practitioner or hospital consultant and are encouraged to attend with their partner/relative who will also actively take part in the programme. The research, upon which the programme is based, shows that more significant healthy lifestyle changes are achieved by patients and their partner/relatives when they participate together.

Dr Susan Connolly, Consultant Cardiologist, Western Trust, was one of the original Imperial College team who developed the research upon which the Our Hearts, Our Minds programme is based. She said: “Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of coronary heart disease in the UK, with an estimated 225,000 living here with heart and circulatory diseases.  It is the stark reality that the Western Trust area, outside of Belfast, has the highest percentage of cardiovascular deaths under the age of 75 years old.”

Explaining the Our Hearts Our Minds programme, Dr Connolly commented: “Prevention is indeed better than cure when you consider that making small positive changes to your lifestyle will decrease your chances of developing a heart attack/stroke and potentially add years onto your life.  Our Hearts Our Minds embraces the full spectrum of prevention - targeting not just those who have established cardiovascular disease but also those individuals that have been identified as high risk of developing same - to help them achieve healthy lifestyle changes as well reducing their blood pressure and cholesterol with appropriate medication."

The programme will be delivered across the Western Trust (Derry Londonderry, Omagh and Enniskillen) led by cardiovascular nurse specialists supported by a skilled multidisciplinary team (including dieticians, physiotherapist/exercise professionals, psychologists and administrative support).

After a detailed assessment by the MDT participants and their partners/relatives will be invited to take part in a weekly exercise and education programme in local leisure centres. They will have the opportunity to be involved in developing their own personalised plan setting their own achievable targets. At the end of the programme all participants will find out how successful they were in improving their lifestyle and their medical risk factors such as their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Dr Connolly added:  “I have led the delivery of this programme in the NHS in Westminster, London and we also partnered with the heart charity Croi to deliver the programme in Galway in the West of Ireland. The results from participants in terms of improving their lifestyles as well as their blood pressure and cholesterol levels have been very impressive whilst the feedback from service users has been immensely positive. We have also shown that the programme is cost saving which is very important in view of the financial pressures the health service is facing. I am confident that it can be a success here too, making a real and lasting difference to those involved.”

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “This family-centred programme is about supporting local people to make positive changes to their lifestyle which is key to the transformation agenda.

“The Our Hearts, Our Minds programme supports people to decrease their chances of developing heart disease, potentially adding years onto their life.  This is just one of a number of transformation projects which aims to build a future where people are supported to stay well in the first place, whilst having access to safe, high quality care when they need it.”

Launching the programme, Dr Anne Kilgallen, Chief Executive of the Western Trust, said: “This is a unique new programme for Northern Ireland and I am delighted that we are launching it in the Western Trust area.

“Feedback and results from this programme delivered in places as diverse as London and the West of Ireland have been very positive. It has helped many smokers quit, increased the number of people partaking in physical activity and improved weight loss and blood pressure control amongst its participants. Many of these impressive results are due to the significant changes people have made to their lifestyles. In the longer term, these changes will greatly reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke and will help make the Western Trust a great place to live well for longer.”