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Medical Negligence

GPs 'not diagnosing heart failure early enough'

Estimated read time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, November 04, 2019

The number of people admitted to hospital suffering from heart failure has increased by a third in the last five years. This is according to new research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

It found that admissions in England have risen from 65,025 in 2013/14 to 86,474 in 2018/19. According to the BHF, this is three times as fast as all other hospital admissions.

GPs not diagnosing heart failure

The BHF found that one of reasons for the increase in admissions is the failure of GPs to diagnose the condition. It said nearly eight in 10 people with heart failure are diagnosed after being admitted to hospital, despite four in 10 visiting their GP in the five years prior reporting symptoms like breathlessness, swollen ankles and exhaustion.

According to the BHF, these figures “highlight the significant challenge this currently incurable condition poses to the NHS”. It said better ways of detecting, diagnosing and managing heart failure are “urgently needed”, as are more innovative models of care. 

The charity has also called for improved access to specialist blood tests and heart scans for GPs to help diagnose heart failure earlier.

More people living with heart failure

The BHF said the increase in hospital admissions is reflective of increasing numbers of people living with heart failure. It is currently estimated that roughly 920,000 people are living with the condition, which is placing a greater burden on the UK’s health service than the four most common cancers combined.

According to the organisation, contributing factors to the rise in people living with heart failure include an ageing and growing population, increasing numbers of heart attack survivors and “stubbornly high rates” of people currently living with heart failure risk factors, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, BHF medical director, said: “Our research aims to harness the potential of regenerative medicine to reverse and cure heart failure, but it is going to take some time before it can help people with heart failure.

“In the meantime, we need to raise greater awareness of the devastating impact of heart failure, and ensure everyone affected receives a quick diagnosis and the best standard of care.”

BHF working to improve early diagnosis

The BHF said it is working closely with NHS England to improve the early diagnosis and treatment of heart failure. It has also recently partnered with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals to refine the use of a common blood test in order to detect heart failure in more patients as early as possible.

Sally Hughes, head of health services engagement at the BHF, said: “Heart failure is still not being diagnosed early enough – that’s why we’re supporting new ways to ensure more people get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.”

If you have suffered a heart failure misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, you could be able to make a claim for compensation. Just give our friendly and compassionate advisors a call, request a call back or start your claim online.