Improved education among GPs is a key factor in tackling the increasing burden of heart disease, says Professor Iain Squire, co-chair of the Alliance for Heart Failure.

Responding to new research by the British Heart Foundation, which reported that hospital admissions for heart failure have risen by a third over the past five years to reach record highs, Professor Squire said:

“Around 80 percent of heart failure patients in England are currently diagnosed in hospital, despite 40 percent having symptoms that should have triggered earlier assessment in primary care.

“Improved awareness of heart failure among GPs is essential to ensure patients receive early, appropriate treatment from specialists and via multi-disciplinary teams in order to relieve the pressure on hospitals.

“Symptoms, such as breathlessness, swollen legs and ankles, and fatigue, should automatically indicate further investigation. An inexpensive and simple blood test – NT proBNP – is available, however current access and use is patchy. This needs to be urgently addressed.

He added:

“At an annual cost to the NHS of £2.3 billion and a growing population of at-risk individuals, there is an urgent need for a national review of heart failure services to ensure that we are prepared for the future, and that variation is ironed out as soon as possible.