Urgent action is needed to address the growing burden of heart failure and the impact of COVID-19 in the UK, according to a report issued this week by the Alliance for Heart Failure.
The report—‘Heart Failure: A call to action’—makes ten recommendations, including an increase in the number of specialist heart failure nurses—from one to four for every 100,000 people—to meet the growing demand from a rising number of heart failure cases.
Current recommendations, originally published in 2002, suggest one heart failure specialist nurse (HFSN) per 100,000 population, a target that is currently met by 84% of heart failure services. There is evidence that services are overstretched however, with only one in three HFSNs managing to see more than 65% of patients within two weeks of discharge, the Alliance for Heart Failure has claimed. Despite an increased prevalence of heart disease, and considerable advances in therapies, the recommendation has remained unchanged, the organisation adds.
The report points to the growing prevalence of heart failure. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 200,000 new cases were being diagnosed every year, with over 900,000 people in the UK affected. The report warns that COVID-19 could result in a significant increase in the disease, highlighting concerns that two-thirds of patients with heart failure are not seeking care during the pandemic as well as significant delays in treatment.
Louise Clayton, advanced nurse practitioner and co-chair of the Alliance for Heart Failure, said: “Early input by heart failure specialists, including nurses, has been shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce mortality. Around eight in ten patients admitted with heart failure are now identified and seen by specialists during their admission, with around half seen by a specialist nurse.
“There is huge variation between hospitals though. In 2018, only six out of ten achieved specialist review rates of over 80%. This postcode lottery for patients must be eradicated.
“The shortage of specialist heart failure nurses was an issue long before the Covid-19 pandemic, but its impact means this needs to be addressed more urgently than ever.”