Heart Failure Takes a Toll on Men’s Health: Innovative Day Unit Provides Better Care Solution

The British Heart Foundation’s latest statistics show that in the UK, one in eight men and one in 14 women die from coronary heart disease.

Heart and circulatory diseases is a broad term that covers all conditions that affect the heart and blood circulation in the body. They can be inherited and/or develop later in life and include conditions such as coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, stroke, and vascular dementia.

Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK; that’s more than 160,000 deaths each year.

Historically there has always been a mix of men and women facing heart problems, with around two thirds being men.

However, over recent years there has been a noticeable shift towards more and more men developing heart issues than women, and at a much younger age.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, referrals to Gateshead Health’s heart failure services significantly decreased, making it challenging for patients to receive the needed care.

Heart failure is a severe and complex condition that requires careful management. In the past, housebound patients received home visits, while others would attend clinics for their appointments.

The floodgates were opened when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ended, and there was a significant influx of referrals. The sudden rise in referral numbers meant the home and clinic attendance approach needed to be revised to address the increased referral volume.

The heart failure team said:

The introduction of the new day unit has provided patients experiencing heart failure in the Gateshead region with timely treatment and support. It has successfully addressed the COVID-19 backlog following the pandemic. It is an innovative concept that patients and staff have benefited from. Waiting times have significantly reduced, enabling staff to be responsive to patient’s needs. The team have received positive feedback from patients using the service.

Heart failure team

A day unit was established to address this increased volume of referrals, which gave more capacity while using an extra staff member to help with the sudden increase.

The goal was to find ways to get people through quickly whilst maintaining a high level of care and ultimately reduce the time it took for new referral patients to be seen and treated.

One of the solutions was to establish a rapid treatment plan in a day unit setting at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Patients identified as having fewer complex needs could be seen in 15-minute clinic sessions, which brought wait times down significantly.

The faster approach day unit also freed up slots in the regular clinics, released spaces in clinics for complex patients, and allowed new patients to come in. By taking advantage of the day unit, less complex needs patients could be moved through faster, which reduced re-admissions.

The gold standard is seeing a patient after treatment again within two weeks, and the day clinic helped Gateshead Health’s Heart Failure team move closer to achieving this. This achievement was also aided by using the Patient Initiated Follow-Up (PIF) service, a self-referral service where patients can ring if they are feeling unwell with heart failure.

Moreover, the day unit provided a training environment for new staff, which was crucial for maintaining and improving patient care standards.

Patients need the proper treatment in the right place at the right time, and establishing the day unit has gone a long way in achieving this goal. The heart failure team has done an excellent job of finding innovative solutions to provide better care for patients with heart failure.

Younger generation faces rising risk of heart problems

Carly Mahon, Cardiology Nurse, said:

What we are seeing time and time again is smoking being a large risk factor for developing heart disease in younger people. Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and consuming an unhealthy diet, are the primary drivers of this shift, particularly when adopted from an early age.

Carly Mahon, Cardiology Nurse

The QUIT team attends the ward every day to engage patients who are experiencing chest pain, who are also smokers.

Despite the potentially serious implications of these symptoms, many young people are choosing to continue smoking and denying the impact that their habit has on their health. This high level of self-denial is particularly worrying, given the well-documented dangers of smoking and the increased risk of heart disease and other health problems associated with smoking at a young age.

Carly concluded:

We are urging young people to take their chest pains seriously and adhere to medical advice given, and to consider quitting smoking in order to protect your long-term health.

Carly Mahon, Cardiology Nurse

If you’d like to learn more about the Trust’s Tobacco Dependency Service, please contact Barbara Lynam, Tobacco Dependency Treatment Service Manager ([email protected])