Number of heart failure patients could rise to 160,000 in three years

New report “paints a stark picture” of heart failure patients around the country struggling to cope with inadequate services and a lack of proper supports

A new report has predicted that the number of people living with heart failure in Ireland could rise to 160,000 in the next three years.

There are 90,000 people living with heart failure in the country at the moment, according to the report from the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).

The charity said improvements in community care are needed to ease the pressure on hospitals and to ensure patients can lead healthier lives.

Cardiologist and IHF director, Dr Angie Brown said quality community-based services can reduce the burden on Irish hospitals:

The IHF said the report, “paints a stark picture” of heart failure patients around the country struggling to cope with inadequate services and a lack of proper supports.

Almost one third of the patients involved in the study reported feeling isolated with more than half saying they had no access to any support group in their area.

Recognising the symptoms of heart failure and knowing when to seek help were reported as a problem for both patients and caregivers with 13% of caregivers living with an anxiety disorder.

Those patients with access to a local heart failure unit and information and advice from heart failure nurses saw a 50% reduction in rehospitalisation rates.

Dr Brown said patients need access to everyday health information including clearly identified goals or targets on how best to stay healthy in an easy to remember manner.

She said improved community supports can have a significant psychological benefit for patients - as a well as a cost benefit to the state:

“A lot of the assistance required by people living with the condition in the community is neither unduly costly nor difficult to deliver,” she said.

“Such a focus on community-based management is key to improve quality of life for patients and relieve some of the burden on our healthcare system.”

The research was undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and supported by pharmaceutical company, Novartis.

RCSI lecturer, Dr Sally Doherty said it is “imperative” to highlight the signs, symptoms, treatments and services available in Ireland for a disease that “one in five of us may experience” during our lifetime.

“We can clearly see where community services are provided there is an increased quality of life and reduced readmission to hospitals,” she said.

“We need to put in place a nationwide policy that is inclusive and equitable in order to significantly improve the lives of all those touched with heart failure both now and in the future.”

If you or your family have been affected by heart failure, contact the Irish Heart Foundation Freephone Helpline on 1800 25 25 50 or see www.irishheart.ie