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Heart failure support group for patients and carers

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Danum Cardio Club is a heart failure support group for patients and carers in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

The group was launched in November 2005 at Cantley Health Centre, Doncaster with the support of the North Trent Cardiac Network service development manager (SDM). The initial planning and set up of the group involved discussions through our Heart Failure Steering Group including our permanent patient representative (PR). Initial meetings were held with our PR, the heart failure nurse specialist team and SDM.

Rationale

Why have specific groups for heart failure patients and carers?

Heart Failure has a huge psychological impact on patients and their carers/relatives. Not all patients and carers have an adequate support network and they can feel isolated and anxious. The aim of the group was to improve psychological support for HF patients and their carers in the local area.

Heart failure patients who do not have a social support network are more likely to be depressed and have an increased risk of re-hospitalisation (Krumholz, Butler, Miller et al, 1998; Williams & Fitton, 1988). At least 37% of patients with heart failure suffer from depression (Keonig, 1988) therefore it seems mandatory for these patients to have a unique support group for their needs.

Various issues were discussed within the team and a local newly refurbished health centre with ramp access was made available at no extra cost. Health & safety issues were considered and maximum numbers were obtained for the room space. The timing of the group was debated at great length it was decided to meet once a month. Many patients are tired very easily we decided that an afternoon session between 1pm and 4pm was amenable, with patients able to come and go as they pleased. Transport was not provided, which obviously meant that some patients might not be able to attend the meetings. As members got to know each other they shared lifts rather than one catching two buses.

Transport was further looked into and a local community service was available for patients to book and use on a permanent basis, being less expensive than taxis and more convenient than buses. We thought this might encourage others from further afield to attend.

The meeting was initially supported by the SDM and the heart failure nurse team. The aim was for the group to become self-run with some guidance from clinical staff. This is happening slowly and the group has now a group leader, secretary and treasurer with a group bank account.

Initial set up funds were supplied by the local PCT CardioVascular Manager to produce leaflets and posters, crockery, books, relaxation CDs, a music player, bingo machine, raffle tickets, refreshments, nightlights, and a 12 monthly sessions of Tai Chi run by David Barrow,Tai Chi instructor from the University of Sheffield.

The group has raised funds via monthly raffles and other local events such as a fishing competition and ½ marathon so they can purchase further equipment, pay for guest speakers and continue Tai Chi sessions.

Newsletters are produced on a quarterly basis containing health education, activities, poetry, quizzes, puzzles submitted by the members themselves and tips from the heart failure nurses and Consultant Cardiologist. The Newsletter is complied and designed by a volunteer and the HFNS at present arranges printing.

Attendance has been excellent most months with up to 20 patients/carers altogether. We have advertised the group in the local daily and weekly newspaper and on local radio. Our group leader also attended a live radio broadcast group interview for BBC Radio Sheffield during National Heart Week in June 2006. The heart failure nurses give an introductory leaflet and encourage new and existing patients on their caseloads to come to the group.

The support group has been well received by its members who look forward to their monthly meetings to catch up with everyone. One of our patients kindly wrote us a piece giving his comments about the group:


' How thoughtful of the nurses and staff to set up the cardio club. As a single pensioner, I am part of a very friendly group - known only because of illness, but drawn together by respect and common problems. We have a fun meeting once a month and indulge in activities to suit everyone, plus talks, lectures, exercise and whatever - not forgetting the proverbial cup of tea. Quite a few people in same position, at least we understand each other - things to do, exercise - lectures on different subjects - hey, this is a great idea! Thank you to nurses and staff.'

For further information about Danum Cardio Club contact Amanda Crundall, heart failure nurse specialist

work: (01302) 340949 fax: (01302) 327944

email: amanda.crundall@doncastereastpct.nhs.uk


References

Keonig, H.G.(1998) Depression in hospitalised older patients with congestive heart failure. General Hospital Psychology; 20: 29-43

Krumholz, HM, Butler, J, Miller, J et al.(1998) Prognostic importance of emotional support for elderly patients hospitalised with heart failure. Circulation 97: 958-64

Williams, E.L, Fitton, F .(1998) Factors affecting early unplanned readmission of elderly patients to hospital.British Medical Journal; 297: 784-7

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