Echocardiography remains the ‘gold standard’ for the objective assessment of left ventricular systolic function. Even with the high prevalence of left ventricular systolic dysfunction, echocardiography is not universally available within UK primary care, despite the fact that the condition is predominantly managed within this arena.
We describe a service within one Primary Care Trust, where general practitioners and nurses refer patients who are suspected of having, or who are at high risk of developing heart failure, for a clinical assessment and an echocardiogram. Following this, a treatment plan is formulated and those with systolic dysfunction are followed up by a heart failure nurse. She ensures that the treatment regimen is adhered to and that the correct physiological and biochemical monitoring takes place.
In our study we found that of those referred, only 33% had evidence of left ventricular systolic dysfunction, with 62% showing normal function. Of those patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction, 86% required a significant change in their medication. Three months after the assessment, using the ‘Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire’, considerable improvement was noted in the quality of life of patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction. This paper suggests that there is considerable scope for improvement in the management of chronic heart failure.
For UK healthcare professionals only