Heart failure survival rates stubbornly low

14 February 2019        

Category: BHF Comment

Survival after a diagnosis of heart failure in the United Kingdom has shown only modest improvement in the 21st century and lags behind other serious conditions, such as cancer, finds a large study published by The BMJ today.

Cardiac rehab nurse 

The findings also show that survival is worse for people requiring admission to hospital around the time of diagnosis, and for those in the most deprived groups.

Heart failure is an increasingly common condition that affects around 920,000 people in the UK.

Using UK primary care data from 2000 to 2017 linked to hospital and mortality records, researchers at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences in Oxford compared survival rates for 55,959 patients aged 45 and over with a new diagnosis of heart failure with 278,679 matched controls.

Hospital data revealed whether a patient was admitted to hospital within three months of diagnosis.

Overall, one, five, and 10 year survival rates increased by 6.6% (from 74.2% in 2000 to 80.8% in 2016), 7.2% (from 41.0% in 2000 to 48.2% in 2012), and 6.4% (from 19.8% in 2000 to 26.2% in 2007), respectively. 

Improvement in survival was on average 2.4 years greater for patients not requiring admission to hospital around the time of diagnosis (5.3 v 2.9 years), which the researchers say probably relates to a more advanced stage of disease.

They also found an average 2.4 year difference in survival (11.1 v 8.7 years) for people who were least deprived compared with the most deprived group.

Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: 

“Heart failure is a cruel and debilitating illness affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.

“Research funded by the BHF has shown a worrying increase in people being diagnosed with heart failure in hospital, rather than it being spotted by their GP. The later you’re diagnosed, the worse your outlook becomes.

“This study adds to this concerning picture of heart failure care in the UK, but identifying the shortfalls is the first step towards addressing them. We need the communication between hospitals and primary care providers to make sure patients with heart failure are diagnosed and treated earlier to prevent the need for hospital admissions, whilst those who are admitted receive that all-important follow-up care after they leave hospital.”

find out more about our heart failure research