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Audit reveals patchy access to heart failure specialist nurses

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Less than half of heart failure patients are currently referred to specialist nurse services after discharge, even though it reduces mortality risk, a major national audit has found.

The National Heart Failure Audit report for 2010-11 showed overall heart failure mortality rates remain high, with 12% of patients dying in hospital and over 30% within a year of discharge. Survival rates have not improved significantly since 2009-10.

The audit revealed marked differences in mortality risk dependent on what sort of ward the patient was in. Just 8% of patients on cardiology wards died compared to 14% of those on general wards.

In addition, following discharge only 47% of patients were referred to liaison services run by a heart failure specialist nurse. The audit report found those referred to heart failure nurse liaison services had a lower mortality rate than those who were not – 22.3% versus 26.7%.

Younger patients and those admitted to cardiology wards were significantly more likely to be referred to heart failure liaison services than older patients and those admitted to general wards.

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