18/06/2009

Treatment Standards Taken 'To Heart'

A leading medical charity has broadly welcomed a new heartcare 'framework' for Northern Ireland.

It is said to map out what heart, stroke, diabetes and kidney patients can expect from the health service.

Andrew Dougal, Chief Executive of NI Chest, Heart and Stroke, (pictured here) said: "At last, people suffering from cardiac and stroke illnesses can see, in black and white, what they are entitled to in terms of treatment and what timescales they can expect when waiting for that treatment.

"We welcome the framework – something we have been lobbying for since 2002," he commented.

Yesterday, the NI Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey published the new standards for the treatment and care of people suffering and at risk from cardiovascular disease.

There are 45 standards in the Cardiovascular Framework all of which promise equal treatment and care from the health service for people who currently have or are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the class of diseases that involves the heart or blood vessels, including diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
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The Minister said: "This framework, setting out the standards people can expect if they suffer from diseases of the cardiovascular system, is the first in a series of service frameworks to be published. It also includes standards relating to the diagnosis and ongoing care and support for people with diabetes.

"It is a well known fact that diseases involving the heart such as angina, heart attack and heart failure account for one in three deaths here.

"We also know that 76,000 people suffer from coronary heart disease, while around 60,000 adults are living with diabetes and almost 4,000 people in Northern Ireland are affected by stroke.

"As part of the current budget, I have invested £12million in cardiovascular services, £14million in stroke services and £11million to expand renal capacity.

"Much of this funding will support the delivery of the cardiovascular framework. I am also investing £1.54million in general medical services for screening people for excessive alcohol consumption as well as patients who are at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease," he said.

GPs and nurses in local surgeries will help people to give up smoking and will provide advice to patients on how to reduce their blood pressure.

The local surgery will routinely manage heart failure and stroke patients. GPs will also provide advice to people who are at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease.

The Minister added: "Some of the risk factors of this type of disease are hereditary but an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and excessive smoking and drinking are major causes of cardiovascular disease.

"People can make healthier choices about what they eat and engage in physical activity to reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses," he concluded.

(BMcc)

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