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Advertorial: in association with the British Society for Heart Failure

We need a national campaign for heart failure

A grass-roots approach to diagnosis can improve population health.

The chief executive of the British Society for Heart Failure, Lynn-Mackay-Thomas, spoke to New Statesman Spotlight about the charity’s ongoing 25in25 initiative.

Is the UK doing enough to help those who have heart failure?

Absolutely not. Heart failure is a formidable opponent in public health, with huge human and economic costs. There are at least one million people with heart failure in the UK with a further 400,000 people who don’t know they already have it. Eighty per cent of heart failure is first diagnosed on emergency hospital admission; it accounts for a total of one million inpatient bed days, and costs around £2bn (2 per cent of the total NHS budget) every year. Heart failure is misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Everybody knows somebody with a heart issue or condition, but they don’t necessarily call it heart failure. Yet it’s the endpoint of almost all cardiovascular disease. Precursory conditions like heart attacks get more attention than heart failure itself. This needs to change.

Could you tell me a bit more about your 25in25 initiative?

The 25in25 initiative aims to reduce deaths due to heart failure by 25 per cent in the next 25 years, thereby saving 10,000 lives every year. As there are many conditions which lead to heart disease, 25in25 is supported by 60+ healthcare organisations with the shared ambition to prevent avoidable deaths. Working together, 25in25 relies on collaborative case finding and community-wide solutions bespoke to the local demographic and circumstances. It will also enable reach into overlooked and underserved communities. By searching general practice records, we will identify how many people have heart failure and analyse who is at highest risk in that community. We will be able to prioritise prevention and treatments before crisis point and avoid hospital admissions; 25in25 uses data at a grass-roots level to identify the key quality improvement drivers for that community.

What policies would you like to see from government?

We’d like to see the 25in25 data-driven approach to population health and chronic illness embedded in policy and deployed nationally, but implemented locally. The UK is data-rich compared to other countries, but it’s not linked up and we’re not using it to best benefit our citizens. The government needs to make sure health data is continuous, accessible in real time and shared across health systems. As every community is unique, we also need to view data alongside socioeconomic factors that affect health. We need to focus not on individual conditions, but on people more holistically.

Are the public aware of the signs of heart failure? What more can we do to raise awareness?

With numbers set to double by 2040 and not enough workforce or infrastructure to cope with the burgeoning caseload, we need to empower and educate. We need a national campaign. It is often reported: if you have chest pain, call 999. That’s not always how heart failure presents. Think “Failure” – think F words: fighting for breath, fluid build-up, fatigue. There is a simple blood test to check if it’s heart failure. We need data and innovative community engagement to help us transform the future of heart health in the UK. It’s about creating a sustainable model of health to be replicated and scaled across different diseases and demographics.

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