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Heart failure specialist nurses prove their worth

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Support from a heart failure nurse specialist significantly increases patient compliance with non-pharmacological interventions, say researchers.

Support from a heart failure nurse specialist significantly increases patient compliance with non-pharmacological interventions, say researchers.

The study comes at a time when specialist nurse posts are under financial pressure, with some specialists facing redeployment to general wards (NT News, 23 October, p6).

Dutch researchers studied over 1,000 patients with heart failure to assess adherence with fluid and salt restrictions and daily weighing.

Over 18 months, one-third of the patients received usual care, which included regular visits to a cardiologist, while the remainder also received basic or intensive education and counselling from a heart failure nurse specialist.

Those in the basic support group saw the heart failure nurse once every three months, with the option to call with questions. Those in the intensive group saw the nurse at least once a month and also received advice from a dietitian, physiotherapist and social worker.

Study authors said 90% of patients in the support groups were found to adhere to their fluid and diet restrictions, while no improvement was seen in the usual care group. Both the basic and intensive support groups also weighed themselves regularly, 79% and 89% respectively, compared with only 56% of control patients.

Jan Oliver, heart failure nurse specialist at County Durham PCT, said: ‘This study emphasises that heart failure nurse specialists do make a difference to patient care. A lot of heart failure patients are elderly and need a lot of support to enable them to understand and manage their condition.’

Cynthia Curtis, head of nurse education and events at the British Heart Foundation, added: ‘These practitioners do a fantastic job. We know such care helps to stabilise patients’ conditions and often prevents unnecessary hospital readmissions.’

The study results were presented at an American Heart Association conference in Orlando, Florida, last week.

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