An inspirational and innovative Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) Cardiologist has been named as a 'Healthcare Hero' at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) UK's Heart Hero Awards.

Dr. Susan Connolly, a Consultant Cardiologist in the Western Trust, was awarded the prestigious accolade for her role in setting up and leading the transformational Our Hearts Our Minds Programme for cardiovascular health service in the Western Trust.

Although the awards ceremony was held in London due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the event was broadcast live via YouTube, where the results were eagerly awaited and celebrated by Dr. Connolly, her colleagues, friends and family.

Located at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) in Enniskillen, the Our Hearts Our Minds programme is delivered by a nurse-led multidisciplinary team including dieticians, physiotherapists/exercise professionals and psychologists.

The programme is a truly groundbreaking and innovative programme that aims to help patients and their families to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by utilising remote and interactive technology.

When the pandemic began in March, 2020, Dr. Connolly and her team had to adapt quickly and did so by transforming Our Hearts Our Minds into a fully 'virtual' programme, to ensure patients continued to have access to the care they needed.

“I am so honoured and humbled to receive the award from the British Heart Foundation UK for work I have done on the Our Hearts Our Minds programme during the pandemic.

“When the first Covid wave started we had to suspend a lot of our face-to-face services and we realised very quickly that we had to find a new way of working to help continue to provide the programme for patients, so we moved it to a fully virtual programme in just six weeks.

“We offered patients assessments via video or telephone; we started group education sessions via video; we filmed educational talks and put them on the Trust’s YouTube channel; and, importantly, we also offered our patients a wearable Fitbit device and invited them to synchronise to a dashboard so we could see their activity in real time.

“This meant we could push through notifications to them directly through the app to motivate them and help them adhere to our exercise recommendations.

“The feedback from patients about the virtual programme has been tremendous. They felt supported and safe, because they could do it from their own home.

"It was convenient because they could log in from work and they loved receiving motivational personal messages that they knew meant the team were cheering them on.

“I want to thank my amazing team for the way they were able to adapt to a new way of working very quickly, which they did with real enthusiasm because they are committed to delivering the best care for our patients.

“I would also like to thank the Western Trust for all the support from senior management in helping us deliver the programme and for the funding from the Department of Health which has allowed us to deliver the programme in the first place,” added Dr. Connolly.