September 20, 2008

NHS Accused of Failing Heart Attack Victims

By Warren Manger

HEART attack victims in Coventry and Warwickshire are being denied life-saving care because recovery programmes are understaffed, a new report claims.

Only half of all heart attack patients in the West Midlands receive vital cardiac rehabilitation, it has been claimed.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says a 12-week rehabilitation programme costs the NHS only pounds 600 per patient - and could boost a patient's chances of living for another five years by up to 25 per cent.

It also helps them to enjoy a far better quality of life.

Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at BHF, said: "Cardiac rehabilitation saves lives but the majority of patients don't get the service."

A BHF national audit of cardiac rehabilitation claims every recovery programme in the country is short staffed due to under- funding. It says this means many patients miss out on physiotherapy, nursing time, diet and lifestyle advice.

Report author Prof Bob Lewin said: "We will continue to fail heart patients unless the government and health professionals prioritise funding for this life-saving treatment."

But University Hospital, at Walsgrave, Coventry, said it was already prioritising heart disease and had enough staff to deliver proper care.

Hospital cardiac rehabilitation nurse manager Pat Marson said the audit failed to count nurses paid for with pounds 1million from the local Primary Care Trusts, lottery and government.

She said: "We have just increased our primary angioplasty service to provide a cutting edge 24-hour service for heart attack victims and we are increasing our staff in that area to support this move.

"Around 60 per cent of our patients are put on to a 12- week cardiac rehabilitation programme and we are looking at other ways to increase this.

Gillian Entwistle, of NHS Warwickshire, said all heart attack victims were given lifestyle advice before leaving hospital and the aim was to ensure more received follow-up exercise programmes. She said: "We are committed to providing world-class cardiaccare."

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