UK & World News

  • 23 January 2014, 8:25

'Second-Rate Care' For Heart Attack Patients

Thousands of heart attack patients have died unnecessarily due to "second-rate care", according to new research.

The startling analysis shows that patients in the UK are far less likely than those in Sweden to survive a heart attack.

The doctors behind the study warn the finding is a "cause for concern" and called on the NHS to adopt proven life-saving techniques.

Professor Harry Hemingway and colleagues at the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research at University College London tracked the care and outcomes for more than 500,000 people suffering heart attacks between 2004 and 2010 in the two countries.

Sweden was chosen because it is the only other country with comprehensive records as good as those kept by the NHS.

Death rates within 30 days of the heart attack were more than a third higher in the UK than in Sweden.

Professor Hemingway told Sky News that the mortality difference over the seven year study was "alarming".

"We estimate that about 11,000 deaths would have been delayed or prevented if the patients had been managed in Sweden," he said.

"That is a big difference and it's concerning."

According to results published in The Lancet medical journal, just 22% of UK patients had a "primary angioplasty", a procedure that unblocks heart arteries with a balloon - ideally within minutes of arriving in hospital. In Sweden the figure is 59%.

And in the UK, 78% of patients are prescribed recommended drugs such as beta-blockers when they are discharged, compared to 89% in Sweden.

Professor Hemingway said the NHS must be far quicker at adopting new treatments and technologies.

Some patients do get rapid treatment.

Bhupen Mistry survived his heart attack because of slick treatment from London Ambulance and then cardiologists at Hammersmith Hospital.

Just half an hour after dialling 999 he'd had a tube called a stent implanted to restore blood flow.

"The minute the stent was put in and inflated I felt an immense calming," he said.

"I felt my heart rate come down. I felt a lot more comfortable than the 30 minutes previously."

NHS England said improvements are being made.

National Clinical Director for cardiac care, Professor Huon Gray, said: "The advanced treatment patients now receive in the UK means heart attack death rates have fallen from one in four in the 1970s, to one in 20 now, but we know more needs to be done and we are working hard to further improve survival rates."

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