More than two-thirds of heart attack programmes are failing to meet minimum requirements for patient care, according to research from the British Heart Foundation.
The study, published in Open Heart, is the first of its kind. After assessing 170 cardiac rehabilitation programmes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it found that just 52 (31%) met at least five of the six national minimum standards.
The criteria included meeting minimum standards on patient access, waiting times and duration of rehabilitation.
Around 66,000 heart patients took part in rehabilitation in 2014/15, an increase of 27% since 2009 (51,000) according to the most recent National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation. This means that half of all eligible patients are now accessing cardiac rehabilitation services for the first time since records began.
Rehabilitation can help reduce the number of deaths by 18% over the first 6 to 12 months and can cut readmissions to hospital by a third (31%).
However, while it is recommended that heart attack and angioplasty patients start cardiac rehabilitation within 33 days, only half of programmes are meeting this target.
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This research shows the worrying extent to which cardiac rehabilitation services are failing heart patients across the UK, putting them at increased risk of having another potentially fatal heart attack.’
He went on: ‘These services are paramount in a patient’s physical and mental recovery and the programmes which are meeting recommendations help save lives. Services across the UK need to ensure that at the very least, they are meeting the basic, minimum national standards of care that every heart attack patient should expect to receive.’