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The BBC's Karen Allen reports
"Reducing heart disease is an uphill task"
 real 28k

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
"These services have suffered from decades of neglect"
 real 28k

Dr Adrian Davies, South Cleveland Hospital
"We will need a large infusion of money"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 March, 2000, 09:01 GMT
'National crusade' on heart disease
Heart surgery
Targets to be set for heart disease
Fast-track clinics are to be set up in the NHS to treat people with chest pain.

Patients will tested and diagnosed on the same day, and those who need hospital care will be guaranteed access to a specalist within two weeks.

One hundred clinics are to be established by 2002.

About 1.4 million people in England suffer from chest pain, known as angina, and about 110,000 people die from heart disease every year.

The clinics are part of a long-awaited blueprint on the future of cardiac care in England to be launched by the government on Monday, and designed to cut deaths from heart disease by 200,000 a year by the year 2010.

At present, the UK has one of the highest death rates from coronary heart disease in the developed world.

The initiative follows more than 18 months of consultation with experts and was originally due to be published in spring last year.

Called a national service framework, the blueprint will set standards and define the way services should be provided.

Ministers are also expected to appoint a heart czar to monitor standards. They hope that the current 18-month time limit for heart surgery can be brought down to three months.



We have huge waiting lists for cardiac surgery so we have to mop that up before we can even start

Jules Dussek, Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons
The framework will also establish performance targets against which progress must be measured.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said the government was mounting a "national crusade" against heart disease.

He told the BBC: "These heart disease services have suffered from decades of neglect and we are putting that right.

"Of course it will take time, but this is a national crusade against heart disease and it will make a difference."

In October last year the government made heart surgery one of its key priorities for the health service and announced an extra 50m to cut waiting lists for operations.

Ministers want to increase the number of heart operations in the NHS by 10% over the next two years and have said they plan to appoint an extra 330 cardiology consultants and 80 heart surgeons in England by 2005.

Mr Jules Dussek, president of the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons, which was consulted prior to publication of the blueprint, said there would need to be recommendations for increases in doctors, nurses, intensive care beds and theatre space.

Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn: Heart disease action plan
"They are going to say that they want to bring us up to European levels - that is a major increase of around 60%," he said.

"It has got to be across the board."

He said Belgium, for instance, was performing two-and-a-half times as many cardiac operations as the UK per million of population.

But he warned bringing the UK up to European levels would take time and money.

"You have to bear in mind we have huge waiting lists for cardiac surgery so we have to mop that up before we can even start," he said.

But he said: "If the funding is there, this is a major step forward."

Waiting times

Dr Huon Gray, honorary secretary of the British Cardiac Society, said draft proposals for waiting times on cardiac surgery and other treatments had been "hugely advisable".

But he said the delay in publishing the document had "raised the suspicion that somebody had started to back track".

"Until we see the document we don't know how much or how little back tracking there has been."

An interim report from the expert group which advised the government on the national service framework made a series of recommendations in November 1998.

These included:

  • Defibrillation for heart attack victims within eight minutes of calling 999
  • GPs to identify people at risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Patients with worsening angina to be referred to a specialist
  • Hospitals to prepare rehabilitation programmes for patients after surgery


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See also:

18 Oct 99 |  Health
Milburn meets heart specialists
19 Oct 99 |  Health
Heart disease drive: Analysis
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