Have a heart, Nicola – improve cardiac services for women

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Monica Lennon MSP and local heart attack patients in the Golden Jubilee Hospital, West Dunbartonshire.

By Bill Heaney

The Scottish Heart Failure Nurse Forum has issued a warning of a “potential crisis in care delivery”.

And brought a commitment from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the Holyrood government is committed to improving prevention, treatment and care for patients with heart disease.

They are doing this through a range of actions included in the heart disease improvement plan.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The decrease in mortality rates and in the number of new cases of coronary heart disease over the past decade show that we are having success with that strategy.”

She added: “I welcome the Scottish Heart Failure Nurse Forum’s report, which makes six recommendations for improvements. We will consider those recommendations carefully with national health service boards.”

Since 2015, the government have invested over £2.4 million a year to support NHS boards to provide enhanced access to specialist nursing services, including cardiac nurses.

“I expect NHS boards to ensure that people with heart failure have access to a range of health professionals so that there is appropriate management of their condition,” the First Minister said.

Conservative Miles Briggs said: “But the report notes that there has been little investment in specialist heart failure services over the past six years and there are now fewer heart failure nurses than there were 10 years ago.

“Nearly 46,000 people across Scotland are living with the devastating impacts of heart failure, so can the First Minister confirm how much the Scottish Government will commit to investing in the delivery of heart failure nurse teams?

“Given the progress that is being made in NHS England and NHS Wales on contributing to the national cardiac audit, supporting data-led redesign of service and provision, will the Scottish Government commit to addressing the lack of national data support to help design better services for patients?”

However, the First Minister replied: “As I said in my original answer, since 2015, we have invested over £2.4 million in enhanced access to specialist nursing services. That includes cardiac nurses.

“We will continue to invest and indeed to work with different organisations that have expertise to make sure that we are providing the right support and services for patients.

“It is important to note that, although there is still a lot of work to do and the recommendations that are made in the Scottish Heart Failure Nurse Forum’s report will be looked at carefully.

“Between 2008 and 2017, the mortality rate for coronary heart disease for all ages decreased by 36 per cent and for the under-75s, the rate decreased by 33 per cent.

“Things are going in the right direction, which suggests that we are having success with the actions that we are taking; we will continue to make sure that we take those actions.”

Labour MSP Monica Lennon pressed the First Minister: “Recently, cardiologist Professor Colin Berry came to Parliament to present his research on women’s heart health to the cross-party group on women’s health.

“His research found that women are less likely than men to be properly diagnosed with a heart attack and twice as likely to die in hospital.

“Is the First Minister aware that a valuable test that diagnoses small vessel heart disease—a condition that particularly affects women—is not routinely available?

“What is the Government doing to improve women’s heart health more generally?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are aware of that issue. The Chief Medical Officer is looking at the issue that Monica Lennon raises. She is a real champion for improvements in women’s health.

“Often, the symptoms of heart attacks in women are different from those that are experienced by men. Many health professionals will be more aware of those symptoms that are traditionally experienced by men.”

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