BHF gives its verdict on government's heart disease report

The Department of Health today published a progress report on the National Service Framework (NSF) for coronary heart disease (CHD), which showed big reductions in the premature death rate for CHD.

Commenting on the report, Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said:

“If this were a mid-term report, I think our summary would be – some terrific achievements so far, but let’s keep going until the job is done.

“The NSF for CHD demonstrates that if you put enough effort and money into affecting change, you can get real results. But we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal, as there’s a huge burden of disease out there that still needs to be tackled.

“We should acknowledge that the NSF has helped us take heart disease care in England forward in leaps and bounds, as was desperately needed six years ago.

“But despite the continued fall in premature deaths from heart attacks, coronary heart disease remains the UK’s single biggest killer. And the same efforts that have gone into achieving improvements in heart attack care now need to be aimed at all areas of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and angina.

“And with more lives being saved, we need to improve care for the survivors – such as providing equal access to cardiac rehabilitation programmes and, for end-stage heart failure patients, ensuring palliative care is available to all who need it.

“The BHF will continue to press for all these areas to receive the attention and investment from Government that they need, and is proud to be leading a coalition of cardiovascular health charities to ensure that happens over the coming years.”

ENDS

For more information please contact the BHF press office on 020 7487 7172 or 07764 290381 (out of hours).

Notes to editors

  • The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is leading the battle against heart and circulatory disease – the UK’s biggest killer. The Charity is a major funder and authority in cardiovascular research. It plays an important role in funding education, both of the public and of health professionals, and in providing life-saving cardiac equipment and support for rehabilitation and care.
  • For more information on the BHF, visit bhf.org.uk.

Further background

Tackling the wider burden of cardiovascular disease

Heart attacks that require treatment with either clot-busting drugs or angioplasty represent a relatively small proportion of the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease in our community – so there is still a huge amount to be done.

It is now time to address all vascular diseases with equal vigour. For example, patients with a threatened heart attack or severe angina may still wait more than a week in hospital before receiving appropriate investigations and treatment. This is simply too long.

Stroke is the brain’s equivalent of a heart attack, yet most stroke patients receive nothing like the level of care as a heart attack patient. And patients with disease in the arteries of their legs, who are at very high risk of heart attack or stroke, often don’t receive appropriate cardioprotective drug therapy.

This report quite rightly highlights a need to address these and other aspects of cardiovascular care that have not so far been the direct focus of the NSF.

Also, fewer people dying prematurely from heart attacks means more people are living with debilitating heart disease. More support must be provided to ensure these people enjoy the best possible quality of life, including better access to cardiac rehabilitation and good quality palliative care. The BHF will be closely monitoring for urgent progress in these areas.

Prevention and statins

While the numbers dying from heart disease have been falling due to the fantastic advances in treatment, the risk factor trends are not getting any better, and in the case of obesity, it is getting much worse.

A lot needs to be done to curb our growing waistlines, get us active, improve our diets, help us quit smoking, and address the underlying social conditions that contribute to inequalities in CHD statistics.

While we acknowledge the economic benefits of switching from branded to generic statins, we are concerned that patients’ protection from a cardiovascular event will be reduced if this process is driven solely by a requirement to achieve the current NSF targets rather than the more challenging targets proposed by the Joint British Societies.

Beating heart disease together

The NSF for CHD has shown how well the NHS can respond if given the necessary guidance and resources.

The BHF agrees with the Government’s National Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, Professor Roger Boyle, that the best level of care and attention should be available to all patients with cardiovascular disease, regardless of their circumstances or its manifestation.

The BHF is proud to be leading a coalition of cardiovascular health charities to consider how best to make this possible over the coming years.

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