January 2019: The Alliance for Heart Failure warmly welcomes the significant emphasis on heart disease and circulatory conditions in the NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out a number of important proposals for improving heart failure services for patients.

The plan recommends greater support from multidisciplinary teams as part of primary care networks, more rapid access to specialist heart failure nurses, and personalised planning for patients. It also proposes broader access to echocardiography in primary care to improve early diagnosis of the condition as well as a significant increase in the number of patients accessing cardiac rehabilitation.

Professor Iain Squire, co-chair of the Alliance for Heart Failure, said:

“The Long Term Plan recognises the importance of heart failure, the issue of underdiagnosis, and the potential for the NHS to save patients’ lives in this area. We are delighted to see that it features so prominently after a long period in which other conditions have been given greater priority.

“We are particularly pleased see the recommendation for better access to multi-disciplinary teams and specialist heart failure nurses. The effectiveness of this approach in reducing mortality rates has been proven in multiple studies in recent years.

“The target for increasing access to cardiac rehabilitation to 85 percent of eligible patients is ambitious – the latest NICOR Audit puts the current figure at below 20 percent – however we strongly endorse the recommendation and would encourage commissioners and providers to follow the latest NICE guidance on the issue.

“We also note the focus on echocardiography within the plan. The Alliance is an advocate of swift access to the right diagnostics and specialist care that are the bedrock of clinical guidelines. We therefore support the NICE guidelines that state that echocardiograms should be used to confirm a diagnosis among patients with elevated levels of natriuretic peptides.

“We would like to see universal uptake and interpretation of NT-proBNP testing alongside echocardiograms; this will deliver earlier diagnosis in primary care, while carefully balancing limited resources. Meanwhile our members will continue to support the NHS with the development of its workforce strategy to address the increasing demands on echocardiography resources.

“We look forward to seeing more detail in the implementation plan and to the adoption of these recommendations in local NHS plans.”