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MPs warn progress on heart health could be undone

Rising levels of obesity and diabetes, fuelled by unhealthy lifestyles in an ageing population, are threatening to destroy achievements made tackling some of the UK’s most dangerous diseases, according to a task force of MPs.

Cross-party parliamentary groups on heart disease, diabetes, stroke and kidney disease have spent the last three months examining the key priorities for tackling cardiovascular disease – the UK’s biggest killer.

Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes Strategy

They hope the findings and recommendations in their newly published report will inform the Government’s major new Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes Strategy, set to be published later this year.

The report shows the NHS restructure, financial pressures, increasing life expectancy, and rising obesity levels mean the Department of Health needs to do more to sustain and improve progress preventing cardiovascular disease, and caring for those who already have it.

Group findings

The groups, chaired by MPs Chris Ruane, Adrian Sanders, Helen Jones, Madeleine Moon and Robert Buckland, showed:

  • 157,000 people die from cardiovascular diseases each year
  • One in every 133 babies are born with congenital heart disease
  • There are 140,000 new diagnosis of diabetes each year. It’s estimated that more than five million people will have diabetes by 2015
  • 300,000 are living with moderate or severe disability because of a stroke
  • 10 per cent have significant kidney impairment.

Their report highlights the £14.4 billion annual cost of treating cardiovascular diseases, while lost working days and informal care are estimated to cost the economy another £16.3 billion.

The report also warns that transferring responsibility for NHS health checks to local authorities in April could mean even fewer people access this vital service. Latest figures show only 14 per cent of those eligible were offered a check. Three Primary Care Trusts failed to offer any health checks at all.

Cardio and Vascular Coalition

The MPs’ work has been informed by submissions from the Cardio and Vascular Coalition (CVC), a leading group of 40 voluntary organisations, including the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, Stroke Association and Kidney Alliance.

Betty McBride, Chair of the CVC and Policy and Communications Director at the British Heart Foundation, said, "The Outcomes Strategy will need to recognise that today’s heart patient could be tomorrow’s stroke victim.

"Cardiovascular diseases don’t wait in line – all too often people are living with more than one condition and this can have a devastating impact on people’s lives."

Recommendations

The report makes 14 recommendations to the Department of Health, including:

  • Giving further consideration to regulation around marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children, and plain tobacco packaging
  • Ensuring local authorities offer health checks to those at high risk as a priority, and report what action is then taken
  • Publishing an Atlas of Variation of care in England that the NHS Commissioning Board should use to ensure consistent standards
  • Making sure all health professionals have the knowledge and training needed to support people living with cardiovascular diseases
  • Implementing the strategy should be a cross-government responsibility.

"Recommendations will be considered fully and carefully"

The Minister of State for Health, Simon Burns MP, added, "We’re very grateful to the APPGs and the BHF for producing this report, and to all the individuals and organisations who have contributed their time and expertise.

"As we develop the Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes Strategy, these recommendations will be considered fully and carefully, alongside the feedback we are receiving from our engagement across the country.

"By all working together, we can improve outcomes for people with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease and make a huge difference to people’s lives."

Read the full report and recommendations(PDF, 3MB), and follow news about the strategy on Twitter using#tacklingCVD. The report was published by theBritish Heart Foundation.

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