Chest Pain

Passing along Chelsea Embankment yesterday, I noticed that the British Heart Foundation is running a series of adverts designed to encourage people with chest pain to call 999. Sounds eminently sensible as a first step. However, Robert Fischell, presenting at TED 2005, stated that 75% of patients arriving at Emergency Rooms (Casualty in Brit-speak) with chest pain aren’t suffering from a heart attack: and thus aren’t taken very seriously - i.e., they are triaged below other patients (Fischell was presenting on an early warning device that provides more certain diagnoses). The BHF says on their website: ‘If you think you are having a heart attack, dial 999 immediately’. But almost no-one will know whether they are having a heart attack: they will merely feel the symptom of a possible one. Obviously trying to educate people in health matters is important. But isn’t it only sensible that we be given a bit of statistical context? I’d like to see the BHF be a little more responsible and a little less alarmist. I want to be able to weigh up my health risks sensibly to make good life-style choices: this kind of education doesn’t help.