Research shows variation in UK heart attack care

7 August 2015        

A man clutching his chest in pain as if he is having a heart attack. A woman stands by him, concerned, with her arms on his shoulders. Research published today in the British Medical Journal has shown that there is greater variation in heart attack death rates between UK hospitals than there is between Swedish hospitals. 

The study also found that following evidence based guidelines for heart attack treatment increased people’s chances of survival in both countries, although there were more variation in the care offered in the UK compared to Sweden. 

The research follows a previous study, using the same data, that found between 2004 and 2010 heart attack death rates were higher in the UK (9.7%) than in Sweden (8.4%), but that the gap was narrowing over time. Since this research was conducted, further data from MINAP shows that in 2011-14 the death rate from heart attack was 8.1% confirming that UK practice has continued to improve. 

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: 

“Research has previously shown that death rates from heart attack between 2004 and 2010 were higher in the UK than in Sweden, but that the gap between the countries was narrowing over time.

“Using the same database, this research has shown that heart attack survival is generally better in hospitals that follow best practice guidelines in treating heart attacks and that there is more variability in survival rates for heart attacks between UK hospitals than between Swedish hospitals. 

“The study demonstrates the power of properly collected audit data to identify how patient care can be improved. The results confirm that patients have the best chance of survival when evidence-based guidelines are scrupulously followed and imply that if all UK hospitals were more careful in ensuring guidelines are followed there would be fewer deaths from heart attack.”

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BHF funded research has helped to improve diagnosis and treatments for heart attack that mean around seven in ten people now survive. 

However, we need to fund further research to help find new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating heart attacks that could save more lives.