Associate feature: Optimising heart and circulatory disease care for everyone
Across Scotland, we know that there is variation in the services accessed by people affected by heart and circulatory diseases.
Differences in the way services are organised in each of Scotland’s health boards impacts the equity of diagnosis, treatment and care.
A recent Freedom of Information request by BHF Scotland has highlighted this variation in waiting times for one key diagnostic test, echocardiogram.
In some health board areas, almost one in four patients has to wait more than six months for a test, while in other parts of the country the figure is less than one in 50.
This kind of geographical variation is unacceptable and we need everyone involved in supporting and treating those affected by heart and circulatory diseases to come together, sharing what works and establishing an agreed national pathway that ensures an equitable experience for everyone in Scotland.
It is, however, important to recognise that any pathway must be flexible to the geography and infrastructure of a local health board.
It is wholly right and reasonable that the pathway for someone living in Lerwick should look different to someone living in Leith.
But we must make sure that these pathways share a common set of principles to reduce unwarranted variation in care for heart and circulatory diseases.
Last month, the British Heart Foundation Scotland published its vision for the future of heart disease services, produced in collaboration with clinicians and patients.
This vision outlined a number of key factors that should influence the development of pathways, namely:
- National and local availability of data to identify variation and support improvement.
- Equitable access to diagnostics, treatment, support and rehabilitation.
- Integration to support the care needs of people with multiple long-term conditions.
- A focus on designing pathways that actively reduce health inequalities.
- Maximising patient engagement through increasing the modes and methods of support.
Agreed national pathways built on such principles would not only help to reduce variation in how care is organised, it would also allow for the development of quality indicators to gather data that will allow us to better identify and address variation.
As we approach the Holyrood election in May, BHF Scotland wants to see all political parties commit to a new national heart disease strategy that places the need to improve heart and circulatory disease services for everyone across Scotland.
This article was sponsored by BHF Scotland.