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Half of heart patients miss out on recovery care

Cardiac rehab needs to be more accessible and flexible, says charity

Half of heart patients in the UK are missing out on recovery care that could prevent them dying prematurely, research shows.

Cardiac rehabilitation, a programme of exercise, education and psychological support, is recommended for people after a heart attack, coronary angioplasty and heart surgery. It is also available to some people with angina or heart failure.

However, 68,000 out of 136,000 people eligible for cardiac rehabilitation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland did not receive this care in 2017/18, according to the 2019 National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation (NACR) report.

Although there has been progress in improving the quality of recovery care, the uptake rate has remained at around 50% year-on-year.

NHS England aims for 85% of eligible patients to take part in cardiac rehab programmes by 2028, as laid out in its Long Term Plan.

John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation, said the static uptake rate suggests that cardiac rehabilitation isn’t accessible or flexible enough to work for everyone, or that its benefits are not being clearly enough explained to patients.

“More tailored cardiac rehab choices need to be made available, so that patients can choose the best option for their preferences, motivations and needs,” he suggested.

Evidence from clinical trials suggests that programmes focused around the person rather than the service, such as through a digital or home-based programme, can be as successful as group-based programmes. However, fewer than one in 10 cardiac rehab patients are taking up home-based options, compared to three in four that are attending group-based sessions.