Heart failure is a common condition affecting nearly 2% of the population – around 900,000 people in the UK. The prevalence is rising both due to an ageing population and as more people survive heart attacks. 10% of those aged over 75 years will have a diagnosis of heart failure. It accounts for 5% of all acute hospital admissions and 30-50% are readmitted within 6-12 months. The total annual cost of heart failure to the NHS is around 2% of the total NHS budget; approximately 70% of this total is due to the costs of hospitalisation.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a programme offered to patients diagnosed with heart disease to help them get back on their feet after diagnosis. Cardiac rehabilitation includes health education (how to live a healthy lifestyle), advice on reducing the chance of having another period of illness or a heart attack, physical activity and stress/relaxation management. There is increasing evidence that cardiac rehabilitation reduces deaths from heart disease with reductions in hospital admissions and improvements in quality of life, exercise capacity and psychological well-being. It is now recommended in many national and international guidelines.
A research team in the South West is leading the way in the development of cardiac rehab programme to develop a new self-help manual for people with heart failure and their caregivers, which can help them to manage the condition using the principles of cardiac rehabilitation. The team continue to lead the way in evaluating the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of the manual for people with heart failure and their caregivers.
The programme is called Rehabilitation Enablement in Chronic Heart Failure (REACH-HF) and Professor Rod Taylor, from the University of Exeter Medical School, has recently been appointed as a Senior Investigator by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Senior Investigators are the NIHR’s pre-eminent researchers and represent the country’s 200 most outstanding leaders of clinical and applied health and social care research. Senior Investigators constitute a network of experts and provide research leadership to the NIHR, promoting clinical and applied research in health and social care. Senior Investigators receive an award of £15,000 a year as a personal discretionary fund, and attract additional NIHR Research Capability Funding to the main NHS organisation with which they hold a contract of employment or an honorary contract.
Professor Taylor has been working with researchers at RCHT for over a decade and is currently the co-Chief Investigator with Dr Hayes Dalal in the REACH-HF programme of research studies which is funded by the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) award*. From April 2016 he will be utilising this award to further develop research in Cornwall. Professor Taylor and Dr Dalal have also recently been named topic specific experts by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to advise on updating the current guidelines on heart failure.
Through the University of Exeter, the team have just announced two new 3 Year PhD studentships in Cornwall – one on Cardiac Rehabilitation and Physical Activity Levels in Heart Failure and the second on Caregivers and Cardiac Rehabilitation in Heart Failure, bringing further research expertise and profile to Cornwall which in turn will benefit cardiac rehabilitation patients.
The health phone-in looked at the excellent research work being done in Cornwall and involved speaking to patients with heart disease about the benefits of following a cardiac rehabilitation programme.
To listen to the interview, please click here. (around 1.10pm)
*This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (Grant Reference Number RP-PG-1210-12004). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.