Despite another challenging year when the impact of the Covid-19 has once again dominated the healthcare landscape, the Alliance has made significant progress and reached some major milestones. Here is a brief roundup of our achievements:

Heart Failure: A Call to Action report

Following the successful online Westminster roundtable in October 2020, which attracted around 50 key stakeholders, the Alliance launched its Heart Failure: A Call to Action report in February.

This was a major report looking at the progress made since the original ‘Focus on Heart Failure’ APPG Inquiry; it evaluated what further action needs to be taken. It was developed with input from all Alliance members – heart failure specialists, patient groups, and professional organisations – and was reviewed thoroughly by a quorum of British Society for Heart Failure Trustees before publication.

The report was launched during National Heart Month and received a positive response and messages of support from many key stakeholders.

It also generated positive media interest, with coverage in specialist media including:

A social media campaign also raised awareness of the report, with recommendations serialised over the course of two weeks.

The launch generated engagement from many stakeholders and influencers, including The King’s Fund, the British Journal of Cardiology, British Society for Heart Failure Board members, European Heart Failure Policy Network, and many others.

In the first week, the social media outreach had a potential reach of over 42,000 from 35 individual contributors.

Stakeholder engagement

We followed the report launch with a programme of stakeholder engagement. The report was sent to a comprehensive list of around 250 contacts.

The Alliance also embarked on a series of briefing meetings with discussions with:

  • NICE: In June the Alliance met Sarada Chunduri-Shoesmith, Associate Director – System Support for Implementation, and Victoria Carter, Senior Technical Analyst – Accreditation and Quality Assurance. We agreed to work together to build a long-term relationship and NICE offered to support a regional campaign to address unwarranted variation.
  • British Heart Foundation: We met Samual Dick and Helen O’Kelly from the Policy Team to share insights and plans for the coming year. We agreed to maintain contact and collaborate on improving care pathways.
  • NHSE/I: We met National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, Nick Linker, and Diane Saunders from the NHSE/I Policy Team. The discussion focused on the emerging Cardiac Networks and how they will be managed and held to account, and how they will be integrated with other NHSE/I initiatives.
  • GIRFT: In November we met Professor Simon Ray, Joint Clinical Lead for the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme. He provided an update on the status of the programme, and the recommendations contained within the team’s report.

MP / Parliamentary Engagement

The Alliance also undertook a programme of engagement with Parliamentarians over the course of the year to maintain the profile of heart failure in Government.

In total six Parliamentary Questions were tabled by Henry Smith MP and Baroness Masham covering issues such as variation, readmission, data collection, and cardiac rehabilitation, with responses received from Jo Churchill and Lord Kamall, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation.

In September, Maria Caulfield replaced Jo Churchill as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Patient Safety and Primary Care. We have written to Maria – who is a former nurse – with a briefing and a request for a meeting.

It was also positive to see a Westminster Hall debate take place in March. The debate reiterated several of the recommendations within our Call to Action report, including scaling up and improving the promotion and awareness of cardiac rehabilitation, ensuring that NT-proBNP testing is available to all general practices, and improving rapid diagnosis with echocardiograms.

Regional outreach

We followed up our engagement with all the regional Systems with the new report, which received a positive response from several contacts, including:

  • Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS
  • North East London Health and Care Partnership

We have now received 17 responses from our outreach to the regional Systems across the country.

Media coverage

As well as media coverage around the launch of the report, we secured a high-profile comment piece in The Guardian in its Cardiovascular Health report in March. It published a comment piece from our Co-Chair Louise Clayton around the importance of early diagnosis, specialist care, and cardiac rehabilitation, reiterating the Alliance’s key asks.

The report included comment from other leading voices in heart failure and had a total reach of around 2 million.

Heart Failure community

As well as regular social media outreach to the heart failure community, we continued to post our quarterly update on the website and send it to our database of contacts.

We also printed copies of the report and recommendations and made them available at the BSH Annual Autumn event – as well as providing a QR code so visitors could download the report.

Progress on recommendations

It’s been encouraging to see that some of the recommendations contained within our Call to Action report have been supported by NHS/I England:

  1. The GIRFT report recommended:
  • There should be a specialist consultant lead for heart failure, supported by a multidisciplinary heart failure team
  • All networks should ensure cardiac rehabilitation is offered to all eligible patients
  • The need for more Heart Failure Specialist Nurses
  • NT-pro BNP to be available to every primary care practice.
  1. Funding for cardiac rehabilitation: NHS England awarded new funding to an Exeter University-led team to roll out REACH-HF to 60 healthcare professionals in up to 20 sites across England in 2021-22.

Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are continuing to raise awareness of the issues facing heart failure and are making tangible progress towards our goals.

We look forward to building on these achievements in 2022.

Yours sincerely

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