HSE cuts funding for life-saving heart patient programme
AN INNOVATIVE programme that has cut the mortality rate in heart patients by two-thirds is having its funding cut, a GPs' conference heard yesterday.
Findings from the Heartwatch initiative, which were recently published in the 'American Heart Journal', revealed that patients who participated in the programme had a much better chance of living.
It also resulted in a significant drop in the rate of hospitalisation among patients with established heart disease.
Set up in 2002, Heartwatch was expected to be rolled out nationally by 2009. However, despite its positive outcomes only 20pc of GP practices around the country are involved in the programme to date.
It is a GP scheme focusing on secondary prevention for patients who have suffered a serious heart issue or from significant cardiovascular disease (CVD).
It was set up in partnership with the Department of Health and Children, the health boards, the ICGP and the Irish Heart Foundation.
The initiative is now under further threat after funding to a number of practices in the Mid-West was pulled by the HSE, according to Prof Andrew Murphy of NUI Galway.
Prof Murphy told the Irish College of General Practitioners Conference in Galway that the initiative was "being gradually dismantled" by policymakers.
Insisting he did not accept that funding for the chronic disease programme was not available, he added: "Ireland's current approach to chronic cardiovascular disease management is uncoordinated, chaotic and inchoate."
The study involved 35 GP practices with 1,600 cardiovascular patients, 15pc of whom participated in Heartwatch.
After five years, 5pc of the study patients in Heartwatch practices had died compared with almost 15pc in the non-Heartwatch practices.