September 2019: The service received by heart failure patients is showing continued signs of improvement, according to the latest National Heart Failure Audit, published by NICOR on September 12. Nevertheless, regional variation is a perennial issue that needs to be urgently addressed in order to ensure performance is consistent and that patients everywhere receive the same standard of care, says the Alliance for Heart Failure.

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

“The improvements in heart failure services are encouraging. In particular, it is extremely positive to see the number of patients being seen by heart failure specialists continuing to rise steadily and the prescription rates for key disease-modifying medicines increasing. This specialist care, from heart failure consultants and nurses, is key and is a significant factor in the reduction of post-discharge mortality rates.

“Once again though, the variation between centres is striking, and is clearly illustrated by the prescription rates of disease-modifying medicines for heart failure and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction, which range from 10% to 100%, after patients with contraindications have been excluded. This inequality is unfair on patients, who should expect the same high standard of treatment regardless of where they live.

“Another area of concern is access to echocardiography. Although almost nine out of ten heart failure patients get an echocardiogram, rates have slipped among those admitted to Cardiology. This problem is being compounded by the further inequality in access to NT-proBNP testing. Tackling this problem would alleviate pressure on echocardiography services and provide a better service to those patients that do require an echo. Addressing the shortage of trained echocardiographers and the projected shortfall in the workforce is also an urgent priority.”

The full NICOR report can be downloaded here.