24,000 female patients missing out on cardiac rehabilitation

15 December 2015        

Person on an exercise bike

More than 24,000 female heart patients are missing out on crucial rehabilitation, putting them at risk of further heart attacks, according to our new report.

Just 38 per cent of female patients who have a heart attack, angioplasty or bypass surgery receive any cardiac rehabilitation.

Analysis shows that cardiac rehabilitation services are neglecting female heart patients, with just over 14,000 taking part in cardiac rehabilitation out of 38,500 eligible female patients in England in 2013/14. A further 5,500 women could take part if services fixed the current gender imbalance and matched male uptake levels (52%).

In England, around 122,000 patients are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation but just 47 per cent receive it, despite a government target of 65 per cent.

When someone suffers a major heart event, such as a heart attack, and need life-saving surgery or medicine-based treatment, they should then be referred for rehabilitation to help their recovery and reduce the risk of another heart attack.

The National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation (NACR), which we fund and is hosted at the University of York, combines data from 164 centres in England, as well as centres in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Helps people living with heart disease

Cardiac rehabilitation offers physical activity support and lifestyle advice, such as exercise classes and dietary guidance, to help people living with heart disease manage their condition and reduce their risk of associated heart events.

Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said: “It is appalling that less than half of eligible female heart patients receive cardiac rehabilitation. Thousands of women are missing out on a vital step in their recovery, increasing their risk of another heart attack.

“That’s why health services urgently need to make rehabilitation more accessible to women, who are either not referred or are put off attending, to help save more lives.”

Nichola Brown, 52, from London, had a stent fitted after a heart attack in 2012. She took part in cardiac rehabilitation once a week, for six weeks, and still continues to go to the gym.

Nichola said: “When you’re recovering from a heart attack it can be quite scary, but my cardiac rehabilitation programme was brilliant. You get access to experts such as specialist cardiac nurses, nutritionists, and exercise instructors to educate and help you. At the end of rehabilitation I was feeling much better and still continue to go to the gym. More women should be encouraged to take part, it’s just so important.”

How cardiac rehabilitation can help your recovery

This downloadable booklet explains what cardiac rehabilitation is, how you can help your recovery in the first few weeks and what happens on a cardiac rehabilitation programme and what you can do to keep your heart healthy. 

Cardiac Rehabilitation Explained