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No improvement in heart failure survival rates since 1998, study shows

Heart failure survival rates in the UK have not improved since 1998, a new study has found.

Medical records from 54,313 patients with heart failure showed that after diagnosis 81.3% lived for one year, 51.5% for five years and 29.5% for 10 years.

However, between 1998 and 2012 there had been no change in the length of time people aged over 45 survived with the condition.

Heart failure, which occurs when the organ becomes too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body, affects around 900,000 people in the UK and is the biggest drain on NHS resources of any disease after stroke.

It is commonly triggered by a heart attack but can also have a genetic cause.

Symptoms include shortness of breath during exertion, fatigue and weakness, and rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Lead researcher Dr Clare Taylor, from the University of Oxford, said: "Getting an accurate estimate of heart failure prognosis is vital for those who commission healthcare services, so resources can be allocated appropriately.

"While the survival rates were better than other studies, we disappointingly didn't see any improvement over time.

"We plan to do more work to examine why this might be the case and find ways to improve the outlook for patients with heart failure in the future."

The study, published in the journal Family Practice, was the first to provide heart failure survival rate estimates based on medical records.

These were obtained by the Health Improvement Network, which collects patient information from GPs.

The findings showed that predicted heart failure survival was influenced by age, gender, other health conditions and blood pressure.

Chris Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation charity, said: "Heart failure is a cruel and debilitating illness affecting more than half a million people across the UK.

"The number of heart failure hospital visits has increased by more than a third in the last ten years as more people are diagnosed with the condition, with sufferers in severe cases often having poorer survival rates than many cancers.

"Currently, heart failure is incurable and difficult to treat, which may explain why survival rates for the condition are not improving.

"This study helps to highlight the urgent need to better manage patients so they survive longer following their diagnosis."

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