A local TD is calling for a unified approach to heart failure to be adopted throughout the country, which takes on board best practice and best models.
Deputy Seán Kyne wants to see cardiac services transformed in the way in which the national cancer strategy brought about significant change in cancer services.
Speaking at a debate on the issue in the Dail in the wake of World Heart Day the Fine Gael TD said it was fitting that the heart failure policy network in Brussels had launched a policy toolkit to tackle heart failure.
This policy network aims to create a lasting network of politicians working with other stakeholders to lead significant policy changes to improve the lives of people with heart failure in Europe, he said. Neil Johnson, the chief executive of Croí, the local heart and stroke charity, and Deputy Kyne are Ireland’s two representatives on the network.
The local politician said for too long heart failure has been the “forgotten condition” as far as health policies are concerned, despite its economic impact on healthcare.
He insisted, however, that this can be changed. “The policy toolkit provides 10 priority actions backed up by the clinical evidence and the views and experiences of patients and it sets out the economic case for change. We need to make heart failure a national priority. We can do this by establishing a national strategy, increasing public and clinicial awareness of the condition and investing in realiable data to support policy decisions.
“We also need to ensure timely diagnosis which can be achieved by providing specific training for medical staff. We need to introduce multidisciplinary person-centred care which would include treatment plans that were consistent and available nationally, dedicated follow-up care with specific points of contact for patients and outpatient care to help avoid further hospital admissions.”
He said all patients with heart failure should be offered a personalised long-term care plan to help them manage their condition. “We need to expand primary care services to include medical staff trained in heart failure in order to facilitate care for people in their communities.”
Deputy Kyne explained that heart failure is a chronic condition that often requires inpatient hospital treatment. It occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s need for oxygen and important nutrients. The condition affects at least 15 million adults across Europe and one in five people is at risk of developing the condition.
“In Ireland, more than 90,000 people live with the condition, which is responsible for between 600 and 700 deaths annually. Most important is the increasing prevalence of the condition, with thousands of new diagnoses each year. In fact, heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalisation among those over 65 throughout Europe and accounts for five per cent of all acute hospital admissions. Unsurprisingly, this is a condition which has a huge negative impact on people’s lives and on quality of life.”
In reply, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch stated that significant improvements have been made regarding access to acute treatments for coronary heart disease and heart failure as well as the development of stroke units across the country.
“Heart failure is one of the major chronic diseases in Ireland today and is one of the commonest reasons, as the Deputy pointed out, for hospital admission in the elderly, often requiring a prolonged stay. It is recognised that integrated management programmes for heart failure, encompassing primary care and hospital services, can produce significant reductions in the need for hospitalisation and achieve better quality of life and outcomes for patients.”