The study showed that a heart attack patient, no matter their age or gender, is almost half the risk of dying in hospital now than in 2003. Specialist treatments that open blocked or narrowed arteries supplying blood to the heart – such as coronary angioplasty – are now more likely to be used.
The improvements in specialist care are evidence of the impact of the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease (NSF CHD). This was a 10 year strategy between 2000 and 2010 that drove modernising of heart disease services. It has been crucial in reducing death and disability caused by heart disease in England and Wales.
But, there is still much work to be done and inequalities that need addressing. Heart attack patients who are over 85 are less likely to receive the specialist care of a cardiologist. They are also 75 per cent less likely than someone under 55 to receive emergency coronary angioplasty or clot busting drugs.
Natasha Stewart, our Senior Cardiac Nurse, said:
It’s wholly unacceptable that elderly heart attack patients do not have equal access to a cardiologist in the UK
“This study highlights the importance of providing the best possible care to all heart patients regardless of their age. It’s not fully clear why the over 85s are missing out but it’s wholly unacceptable that elderly heart attack patients do not have equal access to a cardiologist in the UK. This reduces their chance of getting early interventions, even though there’s evidence that they would benefit just as much as younger patients.
“The NSF has clearly helped to improve and standardise treatment and care for heart attack patients. But the continued inequalities demonstrated in this study – combined with the fact that coronary heart disease is still the UK’s single biggest killer – emphasises the need for a renewed approach to address the huge future challenges we face.”
Improved chances of surviving heart attacks also mean that more patients may be surviving with damaged hearts that could lead to heart failure. We’re hoping to do something about this by raising £50 million to spend on research that may cure heart failure through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.
This study was published in the European Heart Journal.
British Heart Foundation