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Caring for those who have suffered a heart attack

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 26/06/2013

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is to provide important new guidance to improve the care of people who have survived a heart attack.

Heart attacks remain a common cause of death and continuing ill health, despite changes in treatments given immediately following a heart attack and the use of therapies to prevent secondary heart attacks.

The new draft guidance recognises the use of stents (tubes) to relieve blockages or narrowing of arteries to help improve blood supply to the heart muscle rather than drugs as a way to widen blocked arteries.

It also recommends timely cardiac rehabilitation of heart attack patients - a programme of exercise and information sessions that should begin as soon as possible, and before people leave hospital which will help return them to everyday life as quickly as possible.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said:

"It’s one thing to save a life, it’s another thing giving patients a life worth saving. Only 44% of eligible patients currently receive cardiac rehabilitation, despite the evidence demonstrating it can reduce premature death."

Significantly, eating oily fish is no longer recommended for the prevention of further heart attacks although the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are still highlighted in the guidance.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: "This updated draft guideline takes on board the latest evidence on the best ways to prevent further heart attacks or strokes in people who have already suffered a heart attack. Its aim is to provide the growing number of people who now survive a heart attack with the good quality, systematic care that is essential to improving long term outcomes and quality of life."

"The guideline will help ensure there is continued progress in reducing the number of premature, preventable deaths in people who have had a heart attack."

Nevertheless, it may be the case that there is a failure by doctors or nurses to recognise the signs or symptoms of an impending heart attack, or an ongoing heart attack, or there may be a failure to carry out the correct investigations or to properly interpret the tests results, preventing a timely diagnosis and delaying urgent medical treatment such as stenting. Most undiagnosed heart attacks result in death which could have been avoided.

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