MANCHESTER — Reducing deaths from heart failure is a priority for everyone and not just cardiologists who specialise in heart failure, delegates were told at the British Cardiovascular Society Annual Conference.
Heart failure is the last stop for many patients who have cardiovascular and other diseases; mortality rates and hospitalisation rates are already high and are expected to keep on rising exponentially in the coming years, largely due to the ageing 'baby boomer' population.
"I think we all really recognise that we've got to do something, We can't just wait for this huge amount of patients to hit us, particularly with the added problems that we have of obesity and growing inequalities in our country," said Dr Lisa Anderson, a consultant cardiologist at St George's Hospital.
"It's time to really start raising this, making sure that this is part of a political agenda. Hopefully things will look better in the future than they do now," she added.
Calling Everyone to Action
Dr Anderson is the chair elect of the British Society for Heart Failure which is spearheading a campaign to reduce mortality from heart failure in the first year after diagnosis by 25% in the next 25 years. This, the Society says, would mean five fewer deaths for every 200 patients in the UK alone, which would mean about 10,000 lives could be saved annually.
This will be no mean feat, Dr Andersson acknowledged. "It's a hugely ambitious project. And it's taking a huge amount of work for our Secretariat to sort of to bring everybody together and get everybody behind this."
And by everybody, that's everybody in every speciality within the UK and beyond, she told Medscape News UK. In March this year the British Society for Heart Failure held its '25in25' Summit, bringing together both British and International societies that will be key to achieving the campaign’s goal.
"We'd already been out to Washington to present to the Heart Failure of Society of America, and we'd already presented to the European Society of Heart Failure, and they joined us along with all of the different British societies," Dr Anderson said.
More than 50 organisations were represented at the Summit, including the British and Irish Hypertension Society, the Association for the Study of Obesity, the British Geriatric Society, and the Society of Endocrinologists, to name a few.
Putting Heart Failure on the Political Agenda
From the Summit, an initial plan has begun to form. Phase 1 is to get heart failure on the political agenda and raise awareness of undiagnosed heart failure. This will be done by creating 'Fast-Track Cities', with pilot sites aimed to be up and running around 2024 to 2025.
Fast-Track Cities is a concept that will be borrowed from the HIV community, explained Dr Anderson. "This is a huge international programme, which started off with just a small number of cities, but is now worldwide," she explained. It all hinges around getting a political advocate, who could be the city’s mayor or other leader, who has the power to bring everyone together to work towards a common goal.
"That political figure has to bring together everybody so that the specialists, the community services, hospitals, as well as all the charities and local organisations, so everybody working together, to educate, detect, and raise awareness. We can't just think about heart failure on its own anymore," Anderson said.
According to the British Heart Failure Society, just 2% of the entire NHS budget is allocated for Heart Failure and there is an estimated 1 million people with the condition already, and a further 385,000 people going undetected. Comorbidities are common and so recognising that this has to be a ‘shared responsibility across the wider healthcare environment,' is paramount.
Dr Henry Oluwasefunmi Savage , who is chair of the British Heart Failure Society's Policy & Media Committee, said: "Identifying those at risk of developing heart failure and intervening early is key to the long-term management of cardiovascular diseases. Identified early, we can make a huge difference in the lives of those with heart failure."
Three 'F words': 'Fighting for Breath', 'Fatigue', and 'Fluid Retention'
Alongside putting heart failure on the political agenda, public awareness will be key.
"The immediate issue, where we will have most impact on people and services is through detecting the people who have heart failure already and don’t know it," said Dr Oluwasefunmi Savage, who is also a consultant cardiologist for Essex Cardiothoracic Centre in Basildon.
"The solutions are patient led," he said in the Society's video outlining the need for the '25in25' campaign. "So that's why we think that this is going to make a big difference."
Indeed, the campaign posters talk about heart failure being 'hidden in plain sight' and encouraging people to 'detect the undetected' by talking to their GP if they experience symptoms.
"We have the tools and expertise to manage heart failure well," Dr Oluwasefunmi Savage said.
"Everyone needs to be vigilant, to look out for the common symptoms of heart failure – the 'F words': 'fighting for breath,' 'fatigue', and 'fluid retention'. If you recognise any of these in yourself or your loved ones, seek medical help early.
"A simple blood test – NTproBNP – can be used to rule out heart failure or indicate the need for further tests," he added.
The 25in25 is a campaign is supported by the British Society for Heart Failure. Drs Anderson and Oluwasefunmi Savage report no relevant financial relationships.To see all the coverage from the 2023 British Cardiovascular Society Annual Conference, click here.