Physiotherapists could have an important role to play in helping more patients across the UK to access cardiac rehabilitation treatment after they have suffered a heart attack.
Guidelines from the British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation state that all patients should have their fitness levels assessed after a heart attack before they are prescribed a tailored fitness programme.
However, new figures compiled by the British Heart Foundation show that just 52 per cent of eligible men end up actually taking part in these rehabilitation programmes, along with only 44 per cent of women.
What's more, there is often a delay in this treatment being accessed; despite guidance stating that the rehabilitation should begin with 28 days of a heart attack occurring, it was found that almost half (49 per cent) of those who are eligible are forced to wait for longer. As a result, their health is potentially being put at risk of further decline.
Commenting on these findings, Catrin Warren, co-chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy's Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Cardiac Rehabilitation network, explained that she believes that there is more physios could be doing to ensure a greater number of heart attack patients are able to receive this care.
"Physiotherapists remain the second largest group of professionals working in this field, after nurses," she said.
"We have the experience and skills to manage a wide range of clinical conditions, enabling effective and safe management of people with cardiac conditions who increasingly present with multiple and complex co-pathology."
However, Ms Warren added that physiotherapists now need to challenge themselves and look at offering a wider range of options for cardiac rehabilitation to ensure more patients are able to access this specialist form of treatment.
For example, she suggested that physios work together to develop web or app-based programmes to present cardiac rehabilitation exercises to a larger group of patients, enabling them to access them on time and whenever is convenient for them, rather than facing a long wait of a month or more.
Written by Mathew Horton
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