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Treatment "failing heart patients"

Heart attack victims and people recovering from heart surgery are being failed because most rehabilitation programmes are understaffed, according to a report.

A British Heart Foundation study found that the number of patients starting a programme of cardiac rehabilitation in 2006/07 increased slightly to 47% from 43% the previous year.

But the programmes were understaffed and did not meet minimum requirements set down by official watchdogs, including the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

In the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease, the government set a target in 2000 for 85% of heart patients in England to be invited to attend cardiac rehabilitation.

The National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation report finds that three out of five heart patients in the UK who need rehabilitation do not have access to it.

It says: "The median cost per patient in the UK was £461. None of the programmes responding to the survey fully met the minimum staffing levels recommended in the various national guidelines.

"As a result, the average patient can expect to receive only 79% of the nursing time, 36% of physiotherapy time, 16% of dietetic input and 12% of psychology time recommended."

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Cardiac Rehabilitation Audit Project