Researchers team up to give better care to heart failure patients

Date: 18/04/2002

UWS has joined together with leading Australian and international cardiology and palliative care experts to improve the end-of-life care for patients with heart failure.

Improving Care of the Dying with Chronic Heart Failure, or PRO-CARE, is a research project led by Adjunct Associate Professor Patricia Davidson from the University's School of Nursing, Family and Community Health and St George Hospital.

Professor John Daly, Head of the School, is also an associate investigator on the project, which has received a prestigious $150,000 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Palliative care for heart failure patients is a growing area of need, with some 300,000 Australians suffering from heart conditions. This equates to 90,000 hospitalisations every year, with annual readmission rates of 20 to 35 per cent.

According to Associate Professor Davidson, heart failure in Australia is expected to increase by 70 per cent by 2010.

"Chronic heart failure is the only heart condition increasing in prevalence and is primarily a condition of ageing," Associate Professor Davidson says.

"This condition has outcomes worse than many cancers, but patients are often denied the benefits of palliative care with its important emphasis on symptom management, spirituality, emotional health and focus on family issues.

"The unpredictable nature of chronic heart failure means it can be problematic to determine exactly when the issue of palliative care and dying should be broached with patients and their families."

Associate Professor Davidson says available evidence suggested that the majority of patients with chronic heart failure died in institutions, with limited access to palliative care, and could even be receiving futile treatments.

"What we are aiming to do is assess the state of knowledge in Australia regarding palliative care in chronic heart failure, by looking at patterns of care around the country," she says.

"We will be taking an all encompassing approach - reviewing legal, economic, clinical, cultural and political factors which may be affecting delivery of healthcare services in this area.

"We aim to use that information to formulate best practice guidelines, supported by an educational package for health professionals that deals with end-of-life care for patients with chronic heart failure."

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Amanda Whibley
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