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University to ensure technicians can spot hidden killer

Thursday 7 April 2016

The University of Salford is working with Public Health England to make sure technicians can detect a potentially fatal hidden condition.

The University, which was previously awarded the contract to provide national training for NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme (NAAASP), is continuing to collaborate with the national screening programme to provide regular assessments of screening technicians to ensure they are competent.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a widening or bulging of the abdominal aorta – the body’s largest blood vessel – which usually occurs at a weak spot in the aortic wall.

It usually does not cause any symptoms but if the aneurysm widens rapidly it may rupture which can be fatal.

The condition is thought to be responsible for around 3,000-4,000 deaths each year in men aged 65 and over in England and Wales. The risk is higher for people who smoke or have high blood pressure.

However, AAA can be diagnosed using ultrasound. The national screening programme which was implemented throughout England between 2009 and 2013 means that all men aged 65 are now offered a routine ultrasound scan – reducing the rate of premature death from ruptured AAA by up to 50 per cent.

More than one million men have been screened for an AAA since 2009, with over 13,000 aneurysms being detected.

Since being awarded a training contract in 2010, the University has trained more than 250 screening technicians from across England, as well as several from Northern Ireland and Wales, to look for AAA using ultrasound.

These technicians were taught through a combination of face to face classroom-based training, e-learning and clinical skills training held at the University and in clinical practice, before becoming accredited AAA screening technicians.

That contract has now come to an end, but while the University will no longer be training new technicians, it is continuing to work in partnership with Public Health England in a quality assurance role to assess the continuing competency of technicians carrying out the scans.

A series of regular events will be held over the next two years at the University to make sure these technicians are able to spot potential aneurysms, making sure patients can be offered treatment if required.

Professor Julie Nightingale, Director of Radiography and Occupational Therapy at the University’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Our AAA academic team, led by Ann Newton-Hughes, has played an essential part in training hundreds of technicians to carry out these essential tests which can potentially save people’s lives.

“The University of Salford has a history of delivering high quality training to support other screening programmes such as breast cancer and antenatal ultrasound. We will now continue to build on this work by regularly assessing the ability of those technicians who are carrying out the AAA screening programme.”

Find out more

Conrad Astley

0161 295 6363