Page last updated at 23:29 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 00:29 UK

Fears raised over cardiac rehab

Woman having her blood pressure taken
Cardiac rehab services can improve survival chances

The recovery of heart attack victims and other cardiac patients is being put at risk because they are not getting proper rehab care, an audit suggests.

The survey of cardiac rehab services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland found 38% of the 135,000 eligible patients received the care last year.

That figure is well short of the government's 85% target, the British Heart Foundation report said.

The government said it was working to make rehab more available.

Cardiac rehab includes advice from dieticians, physiotherapists and psychologists about how to live with the consequences and improve the survival chances following heart attacks, coronary artery bypass operations and angioplasties.

Referral to cardiac rehabilitation should be a routine part of treating heart patients, and until this happens they will continue to miss out
Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation

Research has shown that completing the rehab treatment can improve five-year survival chances by more than a quarter.

While just over 51,000 patients did get such care, another 19,000 were referred to the services but did not use them.

This was mainly because they were either too ill or declined to take part, suggesting the NHS was not totally at fault for missing the target.

However, the BHF said there were also particular problems with the way hospitals were referring patients onto the service.

'Disappointed'

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said he was disappointed with the findings as previous surveys has shown similar results.

"The audit shows that progress on making this life-saving service available to patients is flat-lining."

"Recovery from a heart attack isn't over when a patient leaves hospital and heart patients should be receiving the ongoing support they need.

"Referral to cardiac rehabilitation should be a routine part of treating heart patients, and until this happens they will continue to miss out."

In addition, the report found staffing shortfalls were a particular problem for 200 services quizzed.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We understand that there is an enormous variation in the extent and provision of cardiac rehabilitation services around the UK and we are working with the British Heart Foundation, British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation and other stakeholders to simplify the provision of these services."



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