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Heart failure audit data shows mixed level of care throughout the UK

Heart patients are not always looked after in specialist wards leaving them at risk doctors warn

Heart patients not alwasy receiving specialist care

12 May 2014

Doctors have warned that patients with heart conditions are at risk of dying as they are not being cared for on specialist cardio wards.

Medical negligence lawyer Olive Lewin has extensive experience of representing people who have died unnecessarily because of the poor management of their heart conditions by non-specialist medical staff.

Olive says that sadly some people with heart failure are not surviving because the severity of their condition is not recognised and they are not given the correct drugs when they are placed on general wards in hospitals.

The National Heart Failure Audit was set up in 2007 and gathers data on clinical indicators which have a link with an improved outcome for patients with heart failure. 

The audit also encourages the use of clinically recommended diagnostic tools, treatments and referral pathways.

The most recent audit of some 44,000 acute heart failure admissions in England and Wales in 2012-13 has shown that half of the heart patients admitted during this time period ended up on non-specialist heart wards and that they had a 54% greater chance of dying in hospital as a result.

7% of patients treated on a cardiology ward die during their hospital stay but this rises to 11.3% on a general medical ward and 14.4% on any other type of ward. Typically heart failure patients might be placed on a general surgical ward, elderly care wards or post-operative care wards.

Leigh Day have acted on behalf of clients who have had heart conditions that went unrecognised and resulted in severe disability, and on occasion even death.

Examples of poor heart care that the medical negligence team has handled include:

  • Acting for the parents of a baby who died when a hospital failed to refer him to a specialist paediatric unit
  • Representing the widow and family of a man who died from endocarditis, an infection of the heart, when he was not treated properly
  • Acting for the family of a man who died because of the rupture of his aorta when he was discharged from hospital by the casualty department

Olive has acted for a number of clients who have suffered from endocarditis (infection within the heart) which has not been recognised or treated properly.

She said:

“It is vital that patients with heart conditions are seen and treated by specialist heart medics as soon as possible after admission to hospital.

“I have seen a number of cases where patients have not been referred to a cardiologist despite presenting with the classic signs of heart disease, and tragically this has sometimes resulted in their death.

“All hospitals should have a ward dedicated to heart patients.  Only last week the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence noted that more lives would be saved or improved if patients with acute heart failure were treated by specialist team.

“The number of people admitted to hospital with heart problems continues to increase but it must be possible that the care of these patients is improved otherwise unnecessary deaths will continue.”

To speak to a member of our specialist medical negligence team please contact us on 020 7650 1200 or fill in our enquiry form and someone from the team will get back to you shortly. 

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