Heart failure – the number one cause of hospitalisation among senior citizens in Ireland – is a chronic condition which often requires in-patient hospital treatment. It occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s need for oxygen and important nutrients.
Heart failure affects at least 15 million adults across Europe with 1 in every 5 people in Europe at risk of developing the condition.
As a TD and as a member of the Heart Failure Policy Network I’m calling for the development of a national strategy on heart failure. HSE figures show that each year over 6,100 people are admitted to Irish hospitals because of heart failure. The annual cost of hospitalisations stands at €37 million as identified in research undertaken by the Irish Heart Foundation and NUI Galway.
I was encouraged to see the inclusion of heart failure in both the Fine Gael Election manifesto and the document which has formed the basis for discussions between the Party and Independent TDs on government formation.
Tackling heart failure requires action on a number of fronts including awareness and healthcare management. Heart failure is a chronic illness but as with many chronic illnesses proper management can alleviate symptoms and improve outcomes and quality of life for patients.
Raising awareness of the condition is also crucial. The launch in Galway last month of the first ‘Heart Failure Patient Alliance’ in Ireland by innovative charity, Croí, will support day-to-day management of heart failure while also facilitating discussion and opportunities for patients to contribute to the development of healthcare policy on heart failure.
There has been progress in heart failure treatment such as the creation of heart failure units in eleven hospitals which provide structured, specialist hospital service including post-discharge care. However, only three of these hospitals are outside Dublin and much greater efforts are required to co-ordinate care between hospitals and primary care.
As people continue to thankfully live longer conditions such as heart failure are becoming more prevalent and more challenging. However, by taking action now, such as the development of a national strategy, we can meet these challenges and improve outcomes and quality of life for patients and their families.
The aim of the Heart Failure Policy Network is to create a lasting network of politicians working with other stakeholders to lead significant policy changes to improve the lives of people with heart failure in Europe. More information on the Network is available at www.hfpolicynetwork.eu
Current heart failure policy was outlined in the Dáil by outgoing Minister of State for Primary Care, Kathleen Lynch, the transcript of which is available at https://www.kildarestreet.com/debates/?id=2015-09-30a.557&s=%22Heart+failure%22#g559