10 steps before you refer for heart failure

Br J Cardiol 2009;16:30–35 Leave a comment
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Congestive heart failure (CHF) is an increasingly widespread condition, the prognosis for moderate and severe heart failure is almost identical to colorectal cancer1 and worse than breast2or prostate cancer.3 CHF has an overall population prevalence of approximately 1–3% rising to approximately 10% in the very elderly

CHF accounts for about 5% of all medical admissions and approximately 2% of total healthcare expenditure.4 Nearly one million new cases are diagnosed annually worldwide, making it the most rapidly growing cardiovascular disorder.

The consequences of heart failure for primary care are profound. CHF has been reported to be second only to hypertension as a cardiovascular reason for a surgery appointment.5Despite improvements in medical management, undertreatment is common, many patients with CHF still do not receive treatment optimised according to current guidelines.4,6

The introduction of the 2009/10 heart failure Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) additions will bring financial incentives for the prescribing of beta blockers for patients with a diagnosis of heart failure. This will apply to all diagnosed heart failure patients. There are, however, no additional QOF points for optimising medication or maximum tolerated levels, therefore, patient care will rely on good practice and receiving treatment according to current guidelines.

The prevalence of heart failure nationally in QOF is just over 1%. Because of the increase in survival after acute myocardial infarction and ageing of the population, the number of patients with heart failure will increase rapidly in most industrialised countries. Heart failure will continue to be a challenge to healthcare.

The profile of heart failure management has been raised with the publication of the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) National Service Framework (NSF)

Chapter 6 in 20007 and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Heart Failure Clinical Guideline 2003.8 The heart failure publications have supported the development of community heart failure services, and heart failure specialist nurse roles.

The development of the General Practitioner with Special Interest (GPSI) in cardiology qualification and the accreditation in community echocardiography in 2004 has enabled the development of community heart failure services. The training and development of the workforce in primary care has led to improvements in the treatment and management of heart failure patients. A referral to a community specialist heart failure service or secondary care will still be relevant in certain instances, however, the 10 steps will assist in the decision to continue the management in primary care or refer for expert advice and a future management plan.

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