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4,000 heart patients opting out of vital rehab in Northern Ireland

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 16/12/2015

Stephanie Leckey, area development manager at BHF NI
Stephanie Leckey, area development manager at BHF NI

Thousands who have had coronaries or are suffering from life-threatening heart conditions in Northern Ireland are missing out on crucial cardiac aftercare, new research has revealed.

The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) report found that nearly 4,000 people who had a heart attack, angioplasty or bypass surgery are not having cardiac rehabilitation.

The research showed that the 35% uptake in the province for the services is much lower than England (47%) and Wales (42%). Across Northern Ireland, England and Wales, patients' main reason (39%) for not taking part in core cardiac rehab was "a lack of interest".

This is despite rehabilitation helping reduce the number of deaths by 18% over the first six to 12 months.

The National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation (NACR), which is funded by the BHF, found that 5,898 patients in Northern Ireland were eligible for rehabilitation following a heart attack, angioplasty or bypass surgery in 2013/14. But just 2,059 of those took advantage.

The report used data from more than 250 cardiac rehabilitation programmes across 19 health regions in Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

More than 7,500 people a year have a heart attack or stroke in Northern Ireland. Cardiovascular disease accounts for more than one in four of deaths in the province.

Stephanie Leckey, area development manager at BHF NI, said it was "worrying" that only a third of heart patients here have the rehab. But she said that the figure had risen slightly compared to the year before.

"The main reason behind the low level of uptake seems to be lack of interest from patients, so if the uptake of cardiac rehabilitation programmes is to increase further then the providers need to consider a menu-based programme which will suit the needs of the individual and the programme should be prescribed by the cardiologist," she said.

There are 15 cardiac rehabilitation sites across five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland, which offer lifestyle risk factor management, psychosocial health, medical risk factor management and cardioprotective therapies to help patients manage their condition.

Alana Laverty, cardiology network co-ordinator with the Health and Social Care Board, said: "It is encouraging that overall uptake for cardiac rehabilitation in Northern Ireland has increased by 3% from the previous year."

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