Scottish NHS heart nurses cut despite vital role

Charities say Scots NHS boards must 'up their game'. Picture: Robert Perry
Charities say Scots NHS boards must 'up their game'. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE majority of NHS boards in Scotland are failing to provide enough specialist heart-failure nurses, despite the fact that such services reduce hospital admissions and save the NHS money, a review has found.

The number of specialists has dropped by 7 per cent in four years, even though more people than ever are living with the condition.

Ten of the 14 NHS boards are failing to meet the minimum ratio of heart-failure nurses per head of population, the review by the Scottish Heart Failure Nurse Forum (SHFNF) found.

The report also said the number of these specialist nurses across the country fell short by 10 per cent of the minimum recommendations laid down in the national guidelines.

Suzanne Bell, chair of the SHFNF, said: “Heart failure is a life-­limiting condition, but people can live with disabling and isolating symptoms for many years. While fewer people are dying from cardiac conditions, more people are living with heart failure – in fact, almost 94,000 in Scotland.

“Specialist heart-failure nurses have the skills, training and expertise to manage the complexities of this condition, in a highly cost-effective way.

Despite this, NHS boards are failing to make enough provision.”

The report showed that between 2008 and 2012, the level of heart-failure service provision fell in Ayrshire & Arran, Borders, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lothian and Orkney.

The review’s findings were supported by some of Scotland’s foremost heart disease charities.

Marjory Burns, director of British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, said the figures showed NHS boards had to “up their game”.

“The BHF has worked hard to introduce heart-failure nursing into the NHS. However, the overall drop in posts since 2008 indicates that NHS boards are not supporting the ongoing development of services as well as they should.

“NHS boards need to up their game and make the provision … a top priority.”

David Clark, chief executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. (CHSS), said with an ageing population as Scotland’s, such services would be vital in future

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that tackling heart disease was a “national clinical priority”.

“All specialist heart failure nurses are now funded by the NHS, and we have invested £150,000 in an education programme for healthcare professionals to increase their knowledge, skills and confidence in the management of heart failure.”