Research highlights cost-effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation

24 May 2019        

Category: Survival and support

Research from the British Heart Foundation, in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research, carried out at the University of York, showed that cardiac rehabilitation (CR) uptake is a cost effective practice.

This adds to the significant evidence base that underscores the benefits and cost effectiveness of CR. As highlighted in the NHS’ Long Term Plan, CR should be seen as a priority and receive the appropriate investment.

In addition, the research showed that CR can benefit somebody who has had a significant heart event regardless of socioeconomic inequalities such as your job, income and the neighbourhood in which you live. Despite its effectiveness, these socioeconomic circumstances could nevertheless limit somebody’s access to CR.

The research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that despite its cost effectiveness, CR uptake is consistently poor, with figures ranging from 10% to 60% globally.

CR is a comprehensive intervention recommended by NICE for people after they have a significant heart event, such as a heart attack, heart surgery or heart failure.   It is also available to some people who have angina. Programmes aim to help patients to understand their conditions and recover from their experience by providing tailored lifestyle support and advice – such as on diets, exercise and mental health – to enable effective management of their condition over the long term to improve heart and circulatory health.

Programmes, delivered in centres or a patient’s home, have been proven to reduce a person’s chances of further complications after a heart or circulatory event. This research supports previous evidence that CR improves quality of life and further reduces mortality, morbidity, and unplanned hospital admissions.

To ensure that everybody receives equal access to CR regardless of their situation, we are calling for a rethink into how CR is being delivered.

Sally Hughes, our Head of Health Services Engagement, said:

“Put simply, cardiac rehabilitation saves lives. But there is a worryingly low uptake.

“This evidence supports the need for investment and a new approach to how we reach out to encourage people to attend CR programmes, especially groups of people where uptake is low.

“While there are some services that are already beginning to think outside the box to make CR more attractive, we need to go the extra mile to think about how we can use new innovations to remove barriers.

“Making use of technologies, such as smart phones and online programmes, could help ensure that more people eligible for CR can access it. We should also consider where are the best places in local communities to offer services by working with leisure and community services.

“Everyone who is eligible should take up CR to ensure that they receive the best chance at living a healthy life.”

Patrick Doherty, Professor of Cardiovascular Health at the University of York, said:

“These findings show that socioeconomic status needs to be taken into account when thinking about funding for CR.

“We know that these programmes are effective, but we also know that not enough people are accessing them. Whether it is the comfort of their own home or at a centre, we must now work to ensure that everybody who is eligible for CR takes the opportunity.”

Professor Huon Gray, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England

“We know that cardiac rehabilitation can save lives, improve quality of life and reduce hospital readmissions. This welcome research confirms the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation and supports the emphasis of this in the NHS Long Term Plan, which sets ambitions for improving access to and uptake of cardiac rehabilitation services and a focus on reducing any inequities to services – we are working with partners including the British Heart Foundation to meet the ambitions set.”

Find out more about why cardiac rehab is important