Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Andrew Lansley answers BHF question on future of heart nurses

In today’s live web chat with the Royal College of Nursing, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley answered our important question about the future of specialist heart nurses.

Via Twitter, we asked: Our specialist heart nurses prevent admissions & save money. How will long term savings be prioritised over short term cuts?

In his response, Andrew Lansley seemed to emphasise the important and “effective” work our heart nurses do. He also said the health service should recognise that our nurses could provide opportunities rather than extra costs in the face of the Government’s continuing drive to make savings.

But why did we ask the Health Secretary about the future of our nurses?

Over the years, specialist heart nurses have become a lifeline for those suffering from heart disease and patients and carers have come to trust them. Their expert clinical and emotional support helps people with cardiovascular disease regain control of their lives every single day.

For the last eight years we’ve trained and supported specialist heart nurses in NHS trusts up and down the country. We now support 426 nurses who provide invaluable care to more than 80,000 patients each year.

We know that tough decisions are going to have to be made in the current economic situation. But we’re worried that a short term view to savings might see cuts to specialist nurses and we think that would be a false economy. Our nurses keep people out of hospital, reducing the enormous burden heart disease puts on healthcare services.

Let’s talk about a specific example. As you read this around 720,000 people are living with heart failure and our nurses’ caring and expert help improves the lives of so many. Having heart failure can make everyday life a challenge for so many people as they require regular check-ups, need to manage complex medication regimes while many more experience disabling symptoms which leave them housebound.

And if you weren’t persuaded by the benefits to patients, then there’s a compelling business case as well. An independent evaluation in 2008 found Heart Failure Specialist Nurses saved around £1,826 per patient after the nurse’s salary had been deducted. That’s £8m in a single year. Our efforts helped cut hospital admissions by, on average, 35%. Why would we want to make cuts to a service which actually saves us money?

If specialist posts were put at risk as part of the Government’s latest efficiency drive, the quality of life for those suffering from heart disease would be greatly diminished, at a significant cost to the NHS.

Beatrice Brooke, Policy manager

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