Heart failure cases hit record high as GP’s miss warning signs

13th November 2019 Clinical Negligence

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) have found that there were 86,474 heart failure cases in England in 2018- 2019 up from 62,025 in 2014- 2015. In the same period, overall admissions to hospital have risen by 11 per cent (The Times). 

The charity believes this may be down to the misdiagnosis and treatment of patients who attend their GP in need of urgent attention but do not have all their symptoms fully taken into account. It is feared GPs may be missing the vital signs of heart failure such as constant breathlessness, swollen ankles and exhaustion which can be easily attributed to other underlying conditions such as asthma or a symptom of old age in an ageing population (Daily Mail). JMW regularly takes on cases on behalf of patients and families who have suffered severe injury due to a misdiagnosis and sees the consequences this can have. 

Heart failure is a disease where the heart deteriorates by becoming too weak or stiff to pump blood around the body property. Symptoms can be managed but a misdiagnosis can lead to deterioration in a patient who is unaware of their condition, causing permanent and irreversible damage to the heart. Although heart failure is incurable, many people live with the disease and when appropriately managed, go on to lead a good quality of life. Heart disease is currently thought to place a greater burden on the NHS than the four most common cancers combined (British Heart Foundation).

The charity has stressed that not every hospitalisation due to heart failure is due to a misdiagnosis by GP's. However, the charity’s research shows that only twenty three per cent of patients are receiving the £20 test that can easily diagnose heart failure (Daily Mail).

NHS Watchdog NICE is due to publish new guidelines on heart failure next month and in the meantime, The British Heart Foundation aims to raise greater awareness of heart failure and it’s symptoms to ensure everyone receives the appropriate diagnosis and best standard of care. 

If you have been affected by heart failure, charities such as The British Heart Foundation may be able to offer support. 

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Jessica Boswell is a Trainee Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Trainee Solicitors department

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