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Heart failure care is 'inadequate', says UK study

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Patients with heart failure are not receiving adequate care, according to UK researchers.

A study by Durham University and Darlington Memorial Hospital has highlighted inadequacies when it comes to treating the condition, which affects more than 750,000 people in the UK.

The researchers found clinicians were uncertain about how to diagnose different types of heart failure and about who had overall responsibility for heart failure management.

There was also inconsistency in patients’ access to tests and services and a general lack of awareness by health professionals of dedicated heart failure clinics.

Health professionals even expressed concerns about how to care for heart failure patients affected by other diseases and taking other medicines, the researchers noted in the journal BMJ Open.

“We are still not getting things right for patients with heart failure”

Ahmet Fuat

Professor Ahmet Fuat, lead author from Durham University, described the findings as a cause for concern. “Even though the government has spent a lot of money on improving heart services, some of the problems we were told about are the same as those found ten years ago,” he said.

“This is worrying because it means we are still not getting things right for patients with heart failure. Overall, staff told us that they were unsure of who had overall responsibility for heart failure from the point of diagnosis through to the end-of-life,” he added.

Ahmet Fuat

Ahmet Fuat

The study involved interviewing GPs, cardiologists, physicians and heart failure nurses in small focus groups, and used the information to carry out a survey of 500 clinicians to compare heart failure care across the UK.

In a bid to improve the treatment of heart failure nationwide, the researchers recommended the development of clear lines of responsibility, better education of GPs and non-heart specialist hospital doctors.

They also suggested the same high quality services and care pathways should be made available to all patients.

Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK, added: “The challenge is out there – there needs to be uniform care across the country and everyone involved has to change to give the best to their patients.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Tiger Girl

    From memory, a few years ago the average time between a diagnosis of heart failure and death was less than 2 years - shorter than for many with a diagnosis of cancer. Yet for some reason, heart failure receives much less attention. Is that because heart failure usually comes with old age?

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