Heart failure is a fundamental concern for the long-term sustainability and resilience of healthcare systems in the European Union (EU). It disproportionately affects older people, with more than 80% of cases in people aged 65 and older. The United Nations predicts that this population will grow by almost 50% in the next 30 years, suggesting that the number of people living with heart failure will continue to rise. The EU is responsible for helping Member States and regions work together to protect citizens’ health.
Billy Kelleher is an Irish Member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and former spokesperson on health for Fianna Fáil. Listen to his personal testimony about building an EU policy platform to increase awareness among policymakers of heart failure and its burden.
Heart failure specialist nurses are vital for delivering many best-practice integrated care models. Nurses provide care, education and support for people living with heart failure and their families/carers, both in hospital and the community. They may also review and adjust medication to optimise heart failure treatment. To date, few countries in Europe recognise the heart failure specialist nurse role through formal accreditation, which can impact the quality of heart failure care.
Professor Izabella Uchmanowicz is a specialist cardiology nurse and Professor at Wroclaw Medical University in Poland. Listen to her personal testimony about the importance of accrediting and funding the heart failure specialist nurse role.
Cardiologists, ideally with a sub-specialty in heart failure, are responsible for establishing and reviewing diagnoses, identifying the underlying causes of heart failure, starting and adjusting treatment, and coordinating care with relevant health and social care professionals. Discharge planning for people living with heart failure ensures a smooth transition from hospital to community settings. It should include enrolment in a heart failure management programme and follow-up appointments in primary care. At present, access to specialist-led hospital care and discharge planning is not consistent across Europe.
Dr José González Costello is a cardiologist and the Director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Unit at the Bellvitge University Hospital in Spain. Listen to his personal testimony about the importance of specialist-led hospital care and effective discharge planning to improve outcomes for people living with heart failure.
General practitioners (GPs) are an essential member of the multidisciplinary heart failure care team. People with heart failure symptoms, such as breathlessness and extreme fatigue, often present in primary care. GPs must recognise these symptoms to make a specialist referral for diagnosis and treatment. Clinical guidelines recommend that GPs measure natriuretic peptide (NP) levels in the blood to rule out heart failure. Use of this low-cost test can reduce inappropriate referrals to echocardiography services, which often have long waiting lists. Unfortunately, NP testing is not consistently reimbursed across care settings in Europe.
Dr Willem Raat is a GP and researcher with an interest in heart failure. Listen to his personal testimony about the importance of access to NP testing in primary care to support early diagnosis of heart failure, timely access to treatment and better patient outcomes.
More than 15 million people in Europe are estimated to be living with heart failure. Early recognition of heart failure symptoms is essential for timely diagnosis and access to effective treatment and support. Management in line with clinical guidelines can help keep symptoms under control, slow the progression of the syndrome and protect quality of life. Unfortunately, few members of the public understand heart failure and its symptoms, and national policymakers are often unaware of the syndrome and its burden on healthcare systems.
Penilla Gunther was diagnosed with sudden and severe heart failure, which led to her receiving a heart transplant. She is a former Member of Parliament in Sweden and the Founder and Programme Director of FOKUS Patient. Listen to her personal testimony about increasing awareness to encourage political action, reduce healthcare costs and improve outcomes and quality of life for people living with heart failure.