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Opportunities for practice nurses when managing heart failure

02 September 2019
13 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 9


As the UK's population ages and the prevalence of heart failure rises, practice nurses need to be aware of how they can contribute to management and treatment. Lynsey Moir explains the symptoms of heart failure and indicates opportunities for nurses to boost patient care

Heart failure is a complex clinical syndrome with a prevalence of 1–2% in the UK. Heart failure places a significant demand on NHS resources and this is expected to increase as both the incidence and prevalence rise. Practice nurses have a vital role to play in the delivery of care to patients with heart failure, from diagnosis to providing long-term condition reviews and through to end-of-life care. Collaborative working with the heart failure multidisciplinary team can bring new opportunities for practice nurses, ensure sustainability of heart failure services, enhance care and improve outcomes for patients.

Heart failure is a complex clinical syndrome characterised by signs and symptoms caused by structural or functional abnormalities of the heart (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2018). Typical symptoms include breathlessness, ankle swelling and fatigue. Signs of fluid overload such as elevated jugular venous pressure, peripheral oedema and pulmonary crackles on auscultation may be present (Ponikowski et al, 2016). Ischaemic heart disease and previous myocardial infarction are the leading causes of heart failure in the UK (National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR, 2018).

The prevalence of heart failure is approximately 1–2% and increases steeply with age (NICE, 2018), reaching more than 10% in those over 70 years of age (Ponikowski et al, 2016). Heart failure accounts for 1 million bed days per year and approximately 2% of the NHS total spend (NICOR, 2018).

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