‘National crisis’ in heart failure requires action as cases increase
Ignorance of symptoms and poor diagnosis rates have led to a critical national crisis, causing unnecessary suffering for patients and additional strain on the NHS, according to the UK heart failure charity, Pumping Marvellous.
A staggering 87% of patients do not know the symptoms of heart failure before they are diagnosed, and only just over half of patients – 53% - had even heard of the condition before they were told they had it. The claim comes as Pumping Marvellous publish a major new report that lays bare the level of ignorance around heart failure, which is the only cardiovascular disease in Britain where rates are increasing – with 200,000 new cases annually on top of the almost one million people already living with it.
Charity founder and chief executive Nick Hartshorne-Evans reacted angrily to the findings: “We have always felt heart failure doesn’t have the level of awareness it should have, and the findings from this report confirm that. It is a national disgrace that we can have a condition affecting one million people and rising by 200,000 every year, that is basically being ignored. Not by the brilliant heart failure teams who are saving lives every day, but by a health system that has not paid nearly enough attention to raising awareness of this condition.”
The report, which surveyed more than 500 people affected by heart failure, also shows how this poorly understood condition has a negative perception in society, with many associating it with dying and death. In actual fact, if diagnosed and properly supported people can live with the condition long-term.
Leading cardiologist Professor Martin Cowie said of the report: “We have long been concerned about the low profile of heart failure, because the lack of awareness translates into lack of recognition of symptoms, making diagnosis slower and more difficult.
Early diagnosis really matters. As a cardiologist I want to see a heart failure patient as quickly as possible, so that I can work with them to give them the tools to best manage their condition. There is so much we can do for people with heart failure, and a diagnosis does not mean it is the end of your life. This report highlights examples of people who have learned to manage their condition, and are living well in spite of it.”
The new report – Living Well with Heart Failure – is part of Pumping Marvellous’ aim to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart failure in an effort to improve diagnosis rates. The earlier a patient is identified and gets the correct treatment, the greater chance of improving their quality of life.
Nick Hartshorne-Evans added: “This report showcases people who, in their own words, can live as well and even better than they did before with heart failure after receiving proper care. But that is only possible once we get on top of the disease and manage it properly, and that means improving speed of diagnosis and awareness of symptoms. At the moment, we risk letting ignorance win, and that’s not something I’m prepared to accept, because I believe we can beat heart failure.”
About heart failure
- Heart failure is now the only cardiovascular disease increasing in prevalence, according to the NHS.
- In the UK, heart failure affects about 920,000 people with 200,000 new cases annually (The Lancet and British Heart Foundation)
- Approximately 75% of heart failure diagnoses are caused by persistent unchecked hypertension or cardiac MI’s (heart attacks).
- Recently, people are managing to survive with better intervention techniques but are coming out the other side with heart failure.
- Prognosis of heart failure patients is less favourable than most common cancers, therefore mortality is significant.
- Hospital readmission levels are high. It has been calculated that heart failure admissions equate to over 2% of the total admissions in A&E.