900,000 people in the UK are affected by heart failure
Referral to a heart failure specialist nurse can make a huge difference according to Trish Philips, one of 382 such nurses funded by the British Heart Foundation to work in hospitals and the community. She works with the community team as part of their ‘virtual ward round.’ “It involves visiting people at home, helping them to understand their condition and making sure they are getting the best from their medication, so that can manage it themselves,” says Trish who is based in Portsmouth.
A 2008 evaluation of a BHF and Big Lottery Fund programme involving 76 Heart Failure Nurses found they saved more than £8 million a year by reducing unplanned admissions. The team is also training GP practice nurses. “All this is already helping improve the quality of life for people with heart failure. For example while the national rate for readmission to hospital is 10 per cent in our area it has gone down to 8 per cent,” she adds.
Care at a distance
A new five-year trial of 1,800 heart failure patients in nine hospitals led by Professor Martin Cowie is looking at remote telemonitoring for patients fitted with these devices. “It’s an exciting idea that enables more people to look after themselves at home, reduces the number of clinic visits for people who don’t need to be seen and improves access to medical help for those who do.
“We are aiming to monitor nine or 10 different things from heart rate and rhythm to lung problems and levels of activity to see if we can improve the quality of life for people with heart failure and keep them out of hospital,” he explains.
More about BHF specialist nurses.