A leading European alliance is calling on national governments to make “demonstrable improvement” to reduce hospitalisations in heart failure and to address the “routine and tragic gaps” in the care of this serious but common heart condition.

The call to action, together with a landmark policy analysis of best practice and current performance, is made in a new heart failure handbook published today at the European Parliament, Brussels.

Heart failure is currently Europe’s most common cause of unplanned hospital admissions for people over 65 – and the leading contributor to unplanned readmissions.

Hospital admissions due to heart failure are projected to increase by 50% over the next 25 years alone. Although the prognosis is often poor, the right care and support can allow people with heart failure to recover many years of life, and quality of life. 

The handbook of multidisciplinary and integrated heart failure care, launched by the Heart Failure Policy Network (HFPN), is endorsed by 35 leading patient advocacy, scientific and professional organisations working in heart failure, CVD and healthcare management, and has been co-authored with patients and senior experts. 

Currently one in five Europeans are expected to live with heart failure at some point in their lives. After discharge from hospital for an acute episode of heart failure, one in four people is readmitted within one month, and two in three are readmitted within one year, with over £2 billion spent treating the condition every year in England.

“Millions of patients and families across Europe currently endure often avoidable suffering and death as a result of fragmented and incomplete care.  This handbook will help governments and health professionals to address poor outcomes for heart failure patients by providing guidance on a more integrated approach to their care,” says Annie Schreijer-Pierik MEP, hosting the Towards a New Era of care in Heart Failure event at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Handbook published by the Heart Failure Policy Network, highlights 10 key demands on governments to help ensure strategic readiness, and greater application of proven best practice models to improve patient outcomes, reduce and shorten hospital admissions, and extend years of life and quality of life. These include to:

  • Instigate formal strategies on heart failure - few countries in Europe have adequate strategies for the current and future burden of heart failure.
  • Invest in sustainable, specialist heart failure care models –Heart failure programmes, clinics and support are not consistently available outside of hospital, and people with HF often do not have access to the right specialists.
  • Ensure ongoing high-quality care – not all people with heart failure receive high-quality guideline-based care, especially after discharge from hospital.
  • Measure and improve key aspects of heart failure care – There is very little known about how heart failure is treated across Europe which prevents service evaluation and improvement. 

Commenting on the launch, Programme Director Ed Harding from the Heart Failure Policy Network secretariat said: “Heart failure is make-or-break for health care systems as they adapt to the needs of chronic diseases in the 21st century - few conditions better embody the scale of the challenge. Fortunately, we have answers in terms of guideline-based multidisciplinary and integrated approaches, which are better for patients and often cost-effective.”

Network members are looking to engage with national governments, and policy officials regarding the recommendations in the handbook over the coming months.

Copies of the handbook can be accessed at http://www.hfpolicynetwork.eu/