A HEALTH service has landed three awards for its fight against a killer disease.

The Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) programme, developed for the districts of Teesdale and Wear Valley, has been identified as one of the most successful in Britain.

Durham Dales Primary Care Trust (PCT) has employed CHD nurses to run specialist clinics in each of the area's 12 GP practices.

Patients can then be individually assessed to identify factors that put them at risk such as smoking, lack of exercise, cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

The programme was named runner-up in the Guidelines in Practice 2002 awards, having already scooped prizes for achievement and teamwork at last year's Primary Care Report Best Practice Awards.

In the past 12 months the programme has given advice, measured the cholesterol and prescribed effective cardiac medications to almost all CHD patients.

Coronary heart disease is one of the biggest killers in this country, accounting for more than 125,000 deaths a year. This has been a particular problem in the Durham Dales PCT area, where the premature death rate from CHD is higher than the national average with 50 more people dying each year than in other areas.

Dr Stewart Findlay, chairman of Durham Dales PCT Professional Executive Committee, said: "The success of our service is due to the collaborative working of all members of the primary health care team. It is essential that we sustain this improvement in our service and we are committed to ongoing monitoring and development of our CHD strategy."

Other efforts by the PCT to cut one of the country's biggest killers include clinics in each GP practice to help smokers quit, life support and defibrillator training for practice staff and home-based cardiac rehabilitation for heart attack patients.