Extensive deviation in care of patients who have suffered heart failure

Extensive deviation in care of patients who have suffered heart failure

There has long been concern of patients with heart conditions being at risk of dying, as they are not being cared for on specialist cardio wards.

The National Heart Failure Audit was established in 2007 and collects data on clinical indicators, seeking an improved result of patients with heart failure. The audit further urges the use of clinically recommended diagnostic tools, treatments and referral pathways. A previous audit of some 44,000 acute heart failure admissions in England and Wales has shown that half of the heart patients admitted were placed on non-specialist heart wards. As a result, it is said that the patients suffered a 54% greater chance of dying in hospital as a result. 7% of patients treated on a cardiology ward die during their hospital stay but this rises to 11.3% on a general medical ward and 14.4% on any other type of ward. Typically, heart failure patients might be placed on a general surgical ward, elderly care wards or post-operative care wards.


There is a wide variation of treatment depending on which hospital a patient is admitted

The treatment methods adopted following heart failure are various and complex. One treatment method is stenting. A stent is a small mesh tube that's used to treat narrow or weak arteries. The stent is used to keep arteries open in patients who have suffered from a ST-elevation myocardial infarction, which is said to account for 25-40 per cent of all heart attacks in Europe.

Patients who receive a stent are 37 per cent less likely to die than those that are treated with medication alone, it is therefore vital that the procedure can be offered to eligible patients no matter the time of day or the hospital they attend.

Consequently, all NHS Trusts need the resources, staffing and expertise to be able to provide this life-saving procedure around the clock. Unfortunately, not all hospitals enjoy such resources and so the use of the stent depends on which hospital a patient attends.

A report has been released showing a significant disparity in the use of life-saving stents in English hospitals. The ten-year study shows that patients were twice as likely to receive stents at hospitals with a seven-day service and, 30 per cent more likely to receive them in hospitals with more than five cardiologists.

The reality

Sadly, patients with heart failure are not surviving because the severity of their condition is not recognised and they are not given the correct drugs when they are placed on general wards in hospitals.

It is vital that patients with heart conditions are seen and treated by specialist heart medics as soon as possible after admission to hospital. Patients presenting classic signs of heart disease are not being referred to a cardiologist which seems to be linked to hospital’s resources. However, such an omission is resulting in a patient’s death. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence noted that more lives would be saved or improved if patients with acute heart failure were treated by a specialist team. The number of people admitted to hospital with heart problems continues to increase but it the casre of these patients must be improved, otherwise unnecessary deaths will continue.

Contact us for further advice

If you have been injured in the UK by a healthcare professional including a doctor, dentist, nurse or technician in a surgery, hospital or clinic and would like to speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about heart disease without further obligation, call us on 01633 262 848.

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