Stark warning from charity after ‘alarming rise’ in heart failure hospital visits in England

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The number of hospital visits made by people suffering heart failure has risen by more than a third in the last decade, new analysis has revealed.

Data for England studied by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has revealed a 36 per cent rise, from 107,000 visits in 2004/05 to 146,000 in 2014/15.

Hospital visits include all admissions, outpatient appointments and A&E attendances.

The BHF has warned that more research is urgently needed to reduce the number of people with heart failure and improve treatments to halt the “alarming increase” in visits, which it claims costs the NHS more than £2billion a year.

It believes that the rise is due to the fact that people are living longer and more people are surviving heart attacks.

The charity also analysed GP data on the number of people diagnosed with heart failure and found that there are 411,000 people with the condition in England – up from 402,000 the previous year.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: “It is deeply concerning that we are seeing such an alarming increase in the number of heart failure patients attending hospital.

“Our research has helped to drastically improve survival rates from heart attack and seven in 10 people now survive. But this means an increasing number of people are subsequently living with the debilitating impact of heart failure.”

Heart failure often occurs after a heart attack, when the heart muscle suffers irreparable damage, but can happen for other reasons.

It means that the heart fails to pump enough blood around the body because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.

Heart failure can lead to breathlessness, even when resting, and fatigue that makes performing day-to-day activities more difficult.

Up to a third of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure will die within a year.

Prof Weissberg added: “We urgently need to fund more research into the condition to find new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart failure.”

The BHF claims that its analysis reinforces the need for donations to fund research to prevent heart attacks, improve treatments for heart failure and find ways to reduce and repair the damage caused by heart attacks.

Across the UK there are more than 500,000 people diagnosed with heart failure and 75,000 people under the age of 65.

Elaine Harris, from Wigan, is now living with severe heart failure, is unable to work and is being assessed for a heart transplant.

The 50-year-old, who had a heart attack two years ago, said: “The last thing I expected was to have a heart attack when I was 48, but to then be told I had severe heart failure was completely devastating.

“My life has completely changed now. I no longer work, I sleep at least 16 hours a day and I can’t walk very far at all without resting.”

She continued: “I still live my life to the fullest I can – but living with this condition has meant a new and restricted way of life and I am completely dependent on my family.”

The BHF has funded more than £25million of research into regenerative medicine across the UK.

For further information on the BHF’s research visit bhf.org.uk/findthecure.