Tens of thousands of heart attack patients are missing out on cardiac rehabilitation that can help them avoid being struck down again and dying, show new figures.
Data from the National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation reveals more people are receiving cardiac rehab, which can help saves lives and prevent people going back into hospital.
“Half of heart attack patients are still missing out on this effective service”
Uptake of rehabilitation services, which provide advice and guidance on diet, exercise and lifestyle, hit 50% for the first time last year, the figures show.
But this means around 66,000 heart patients are still missing out, according those behind the latest audit.
In addition, the audit, which combines data from hundreds of rehabilitation centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, shows women are more likely to miss out than men.
In England, around 52% of eligible patients take part compared to 44% of female patients.
The data also reveals delays in care. Heart attack and angioplasty patients should ideally start cardiac rehab within 33 days, but just half of programmes are meeting this target.
The audit is based at the University of York and funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Dr Michael Knapton
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said variation between services needed to be ironed out.
“It is hugely encouraging that more patients are accessing rehabilitation services but there is still more to be done,” he said.
“Half of heart attack patients are still missing out on this effective service and are at greater risk of suffering a deadly heart attack,” he said. “There are also delays in patients getting access to care.”
Earlier this year, the All Party Parliamentary Group on heart disease launched an inquiry into how to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of heart failure patients in England.
One of the key recommendations was for all clinical commissioning groups to commission exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programmes and increase referrals to them.