Alliance for Heart Failure update – Winter 2021:

Welcome to the first Alliance for Heart Failure update of 2021. Despite a challenging past twelve months, which required us to realign our plans to reflect the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Alliance has made significant and important progress.

As we start a new calendar year, here is a recap on our progress in 2020 and a look ahead to our plans for building on this success this year.

  1. National Push

Roundtable

Since our last update, the Alliance for Heart Failure staged its online Westminster Heart Failure roundtable, hosted by Steve McCabe MP, on October 26th.

There was an outstanding turnout; at its peak, there were 47 attendees, including Prof. Nick Linker, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England & NHS Improvement, and Henry Smith MP.

There were also representatives from NICE, The Royal College of GPs, Health Education England, The British Heart Foundation, key professional organisations, regional NHS systems, patient groups, and heart failure patients.

The discussion covered:

  • The importance of early diagnosis, cardiac rehabilitation, and the role of primary care
  • How specialist teams impact on patient outcomes
  • The impact of Covid-19 on heart failure care
  • NICE guidelines and recommendations.

The roundtable received excellent feedback from both guests and speakers.

Heart Failure: A Call to Action report

Another landmark project of 2020 was the ‘Heart Failure: A Call to Action’ report. The report reviews the progress that has been made on the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heart Disease, first published in 2016. It has been developed with input from heart failure specialists, patient groups, and professional organisations, and calls for urgent action to deliver change. It also raises awareness of the possible long-term outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic on patients and health services, further reiterating the urgency to improve care.

The report has undergone a thorough review, including by the British Society for Heart Failure, and received positive feedback.

The Fighting Failure campaign

The Fighting Failure campaign, of which the Alliance is a supporter, launched in September 2020. The campaign, co-created by the British Society for Heart Failure and Novartis, aims to reposition heart failure in the minds of the public, patients, healthcare professionals, parliamentarians and policy makers by raising awareness of the impact of heart failure. The campaign will continue to raise awareness of the need to ensure access to NT-proBNP and specialists.

2021 plans

A plan for the report launch to maximise its reach and impact has been developed with a view to publishing it in the first quarter of this year.

We will use the comprehensive stakeholder map, developed in 2020, to guide engagement. We will also capitalise on the positive parliamentary engagement to seek support for parliamentary questions based on the report research.

Meanwhile, we will continue to seek opportunities to support initiatives such as the Fighting Failure campaign that drive momentum to improve heart failure care across the UK and improve quality of life for patients.

  1. Regional outreach

In 2020, we continued to monitor the publication of 5 Year Plans by regional NHS Systems to ensure that heart failure services are adequately addressed. A letter and detailed briefing on the variation in the access to heart failure services across the UK was deployed to those who fail to mention, or mention only very briefly, heart failure.

The status at the end of 2020 was:

  • 21 systems published
  • 13 systems approached by the Alliance (where they fail to make adequate reference to heart failure)

Over the course of the year, the Alliance received positive responses from numerous regional Systems, ranging from an indication that the Alliance’s input will be used to influence regional heart failure strategy, to requests for discussions with the Alliance and briefing material to inform plans.

This outreach has found that an encouraging number of regional Systems are referring to heart failure in their plans, after previously failing to do so in 2016. In fact, just over half currently mention the condition in their new strategies.

As a result of this activity, the Alliance has formed strong relationships with some of the System leads. Some supported the roundtable, with attendees including representatives with an interest in cardiovascular and heart failure from the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership; and Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System.

 2021 plans

Although we expect further delays to the publication of local ICS Plans due to the ongoing effects of Covid-19, the Alliance will continue to monitor and respond to them as and when appropriate.

We will also continue to engage and form relationships with the local Systems to set up calls and one-to-one meetings to discuss support options, provide expertise and contribute to consultations.

  1. Covid-19

BSH guidance

Through the connections formed from our regional outreach, over the course of the year the Alliance was able to support the efforts to distribute – and raise awareness of – guidance from the British Society for Heart Failure, aimed at frontline staff.

  • In April: Retention of Essential Heart Failure Services during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In July: Guidance on the recovery phase of essential heart failure services from the British Society for Heart Failure

The guidance was endorsed by the Alliance and distributed to regional NHS System leads. This received positive feedback, with various leads stating that it was clear and helpful, and passed it onto relevant long term condition and cardiovascular teams.

Health and Social Care Committee Inquiry

In May last year, the Alliance submitted a response to the Health and Social Care Committee Inquiry ‘Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond’.

The report was published in October and included reference to the evidence submitted by the Alliance as well as reflecting the key themes of our submission, such as the resumption of core services, improved communication with patients, and the use of ‘technology and digital alternatives’.

Meanwhile, we contributed to, and endorsed, the ‘Heart failure policy and practice in Europe’ report by the Heart Failure Policy Network. The report provides an analysis of heart failure policy and practice in 11 European countries.

2021 plans

The Alliance will continue to respond to issues around the Covid-19 pandemic, including raising awareness of the long-term impact on patients and health services to emphasise the need to improve care.

Despite the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has – and continues to – present, the Alliance has succeeded in making excellent progress towards its goals over the past year and has exciting plans to build on this momentum, improve awareness of heart failure to ensure patients receive the treatment they need, and continue to drive policy change in 2021.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support for the Alliance. If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact the Alliance Secretariat at ahf@3nine.co.uk.

Kind regards

Louise Clayton, Richard Corder – Co-chairs, Alliance for Heart Failure