Researchers at the University of Edinburgh will work closely with patients and their carers on a new study aimed at improving medical services for the one million people in the UK with heart failure. This figure set to increase by 700,000 by the year 2010.
The recent National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease identified the need to expand treatment and palliative care for people with heart failure, and recommendations from the new study may be used to establish national guidelines for the care of patients with the condition.
Researchers will recruit and interview 30 patients in the Lothians who have been hospitalised with acute heart failure, to find out their needs from diagnosis to end-of-life palliative care. Their carers, both professional and informal, will be asked for their views on the quality and level of services in the area.
Research team leader Dr Scott Murray, a senior lecturer in General Practice at the University's School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, explains: "The number of deaths from heart attack is falling, but the patients may then develop heart failure over time. The number of patients with heart failure is rising and this is now the most common reason for admission to hospital in Lothian. The condition usually develops slowly, often over years, as the heart gradually loses its pumping ability and works less efficiently. Patients may have spells in hospital two or three times a year to treat fluid build-up.
"There is a need for more user-centred services, raised standards and a reduction of unjustified variations in health services for patients with heart failure. Services such as heart failure specialist nurses and community-based heart failure clinics are being widely introduced and we need to make sure that these services are acceptable and accessible to patients and their carers. We will also look at ways to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and re-admissions, and to increase access to palliative care."
The study, which runs until June 2006, is funded through the Department of Health/British Heart Foundation Heart Failure Research Initiative.
"Due to improved treatment, more people are surviving heart attacks but many subsequently develop heart failure, which can severely impair their quality of life," said Iain Lowis, Director of the British Heart Foundation in Scotland. "This research will provide much-needed information based on interviews with those who are most closely affected by heart failure, so that their treatment and access to it can be improved."