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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Doctors 'failing heart disease patients'
Heart monitor
Treating heart failure costs the NHS 600m each year
Thousands of patients with heart disease are admitted to hospital unnecessarily every year, according to doctors.

A survey of specialists across the UK shows many believe patients who suffer heart failure could be treated at home.

It suggests that hospital admissions could be significantly reduced and substantial savings could be achieved, if doctors prescribed more effective medication.

Heart failure patients do not always need to be treated in hospital

Dr Michael Davies, University Hospital Birmingham
Recent figures suggest that patients who suffer heart failure account for 5% of all admissions to NHS hospitals.

Treating heart failure costs the NHS 600m a year, most of which is spent on hospital care.

Reduce admissions

The survey, carried out on behalf of the British Cardiac Patient Association, found that 96% of cardiologists also believe that reducing hospital admissions would benefit patients.

Some 88% said patients' quality of life and well being would improve if they were given effective medication that did not require them to remain in hospital.

Recent trials of heart-failure drugs suggest they can significantly reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospital while also reducing deaths.

Dr Lip Bun Tan, a consultant cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary, said hospital admissions should be avoid wherever possible.

"What heart failure patients tell me is that they really do not like coming into hospital if it can be avoided. It has a detrimental effect on their quality of life, especially for elderly patients."

He said more doctors needed to prescribe new drugs, which can reduce admissions and improve quality of life.

"Doctors need to be encouraged to use them routinely as part of improving the quality of care for our patients."

Quality of life

Dr Michael Davies, a consultant cardiologist at University Hospital Birmingham, said: "Heart failure patients do not always need to be treated in hospital and for them the whole issue of quality of life is very important."

He added: "Heart failure patients need to live their lives as normally as possible and anything that impairs that for them, especially if it can be avoided, is unsatisfactory".

Eve Knight, service development officer at the BCPA said changing the current practice could help patients and hospitals.

"If there is a way of improving quality of life for patients with cardiac conditions every effort should be made to facilitate this, especially if in the long run it will actually benefit both the patient and the NHS".

See also:

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