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INTRODUCTION: There is a lack of evidence that the benefits of screening for atrial fibrillation (AF) outweigh the harms. Following the completion of the Screening for Atrial Fibrillation with ECG to Reduce stroke (SAFER) pilot trial, the aim of the main SAFER trial is to establish whether population screening for AF reduces incidence of stroke risk. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Approximately 82 000 people aged 70 years and over and not on oral anticoagulation are being recruited from general practices in England. Patients on the palliative care register or residents in a nursing home are excluded. Eligible people are identified using electronic patient records from general practices and sent an invitation and consent form to participate by post. Consenting participants are randomised at a ratio of 2:1 (control:intervention) with clustering by household. Those randomised to the intervention arm are sent an information leaflet inviting them to participate in screening, which involves use of a handheld single-lead ECG four times a day for 3 weeks. ECG traces identified by an algorithm as possible AF are reviewed by cardiologists. Participants with AF are seen by a general practitioner for consideration of anticoagulation. The primary outcome is stroke. Major secondary outcomes are: death, major bleeding and cardiovascular events. Follow-up will be via electronic health records for an average of 4 years. The primary analysis will be by intention-to-treat using time-to-event modelling. Results from this trial will be combined with follow-up data from the cluster-randomised pilot trial by fixed-effects meta-analysis. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The London-Central National Health Service Research Ethics Committee (19/LO/1597) provided ethical approval. Dissemination will include public-friendly summaries, reports and engagement with the UK National Screening Committee. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN72104369.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





CARDIOLOGY, Mass Screening, Primary Care, Randomized Controlled Trial, Stroke, Humans, Atrial Fibrillation, Aged, Stroke, Mass Screening, Electrocardiography, England, Female, Male, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Aged, 80 and over, Anticoagulants