GP advice scheme for heart failure saves lives and frees hospital beds

GPs in Southwark and Lambeth will be able to directly access specialist heart failure teams for advice under an initiative launched by nearby trusts to cut down on deaths and free up hospital beds.

The scheme – funded through a £1.5m grant from Guy's and St Thomas' Charity – introduces teams of heart failure experts from Guy's and St Thomas' and King's College Hospital Trusts across the two boroughs.

Thought to be the first scheme of its kind, these teams are comprised of a named doctor, a nurse and a pharmacist, and will advise GPs on how best to manage patients with heart failure.

GPs will be able to contact the teams on a day-to-day basis, but they will also run ‘virtual clinics’ and education sessions at local practices.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust said it expected the scheme to save around 80 lives a year alongside freeing up 3,000 hospital beds – as well as cutting down on the number of avoidable hospital admissions and re-admissions for patients with heart failure.

The teams will also work closely with other specialists to develop a joint approach to caring for these patients – of which two thirds are thought to have other long-term conditions.

A third have significant depression or anxiety, and the teams will liaise with mental health experts at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London ‘to provide easier access’ to these services.

Heart failure

The scheme is currently operational in three of the five local care networks that cover the area, and GPs in all five should have access to the service by early next year.

Dr Mark Chamley, a GP based in Lambeth, praised the scheme. ‘Having direct access to specialist heart failure advice has already proven to be immensely beneficial for patients,’ he said.

‘It has allowed me to discuss the correct tests and treatment for them to ensure they are receiving the best possible care which should reduce their chance of being admitted to hospital.’

The chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, Kieron Boyle, said: ‘Through our work backing new approaches in health, we know that often what makes the biggest difference is being diagnosed and treated quickly.

‘Through this project we hope to save dozens of lives a year and improve many more. This will be achieved by raising people’s awareness of heart failure, bringing experts into community settings, and ensuring that those living with heart failure and other physical and mental long-term conditions receive the rounded care they need.’

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