January 24, 2013

Heart patients must have equal access to rehab services

East Lindsey Heart Support Group exercise bikeAhead of a key debate in the Scottish Parliament, two leading charities are calling on the Government and NHS Scotland to ensure heart patients receive vital life-saving care.                

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) want every heart patient to be referred for cardiac rehabilitation – a programme of exercise and information sessions that help patients get back to everyday life. The charities also want to see NHS Boards make sure a consistent and quality service is provided.

Deaths from heart disease in Scotland have fallen significantly over the last 15 years, dropping by 60%. But this has resulted in a marked increase in the number of people living with heart disease, especially conditions like heart failure, making it vital that people receive rehab services which have been found to reduce the risk of death.

The needs of people with long term conditions like heart failure often seem to be neglected

Following improvements in provision over the last four years, 75% of hospitalised heart attack patients and 68% of heart bypass patients are now assessed for cardiac rehab.

However, there has been little improvement for patients living with long term conditions. Only 3% of heart failure patients are referred to the service, and the figure is just over 7% for people with angina. People with these conditions who do not receive cardiac rehabilitation are more likely to suffer further problems that could put them back in hospital.

BHF Scotland’s Ben McKendrick said: “We’ve made great progress in providing cardiac rehabilitation to heart patients, but too many still miss out. The needs of people with long term conditions like heart failure and angina often seem to be neglected.

“We want the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to commit to an effective audit of current provision across the country, and establish a robust and mandatory target to ensure all heart patients are referred for this crucial, life-saving service.”

'Invaluable support'

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland's Chief Executive, David Clark, said: "These figures show what can be achieved for the most acute patients. Cardiac rehab saves lives and should be fully recognised as being central to the treatment and care of all heart patients who might benefit. We congratulate the hard work of the many professions involved in providing high quality cardiac rehabilitation programmes, but would like to see every patient who is suitable, and who wants it, having the chance to access this invaluable support.”

Cardiac rehabilitation offers a package of measures including supervised exercise and educational sessions that help heart patients rebuild their confidence and wellbeing and encourage them to live as full a life as possible.