Heart attack victims in the UK are being failed because of a lack of aftercare, according to a major new audit. According to new data, more than two thirds of NHS cardiac rehabilitation services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not meeting minimum standards of care.
According to NHS regulations, everyone who suffers a heart attack should receive rehabiliation afterwards. Providing such follow up care has been shown to the risk of death by as much as 18 per cent in the year following the heart attack. Readmissions to hospital are also reduced by nearly a third if rehabiliation is provided.
However, the damning new report has shown that a total of 66,000 out of 132,000 patients who should have received cardiac rehabilitation each year, are missing out completely. And, even when patients were put into a rehabilitation programme, they did not receive care in a timely fashion, or for a long enough period.
Medics say the findings, which have been published in the respected journal Open Heart, show that heart patients across the country are being failed. According to official guidelines, people who have suffered a heart attack, or who have had a stent fitted, should have rehabilitation within the next 33 days. However, only half of people who did get the treatment started it that quickly.
Services include helping patients to start exercising again gradually, as well as providing help to improve diet, in a bid to prevent further attacks. Dr Mike Knapton, from the British Heart Foundation, which provided funding for the research to be carried out, said it had revealed “worrying results” showing that patients across the UK were being placed at an increased risk of having a further heart attack, which could prove fatal.
He added that it was vital all services met at the very least, the minimum standards of care set nationally if they were to save lives.