UK 'major heart disease spender'

Sunday, 13 February, 2005,

The UK spends more on treating heart disease per head of population than any other country in Europe, figures show.

The European Heart Network found 3.4bn is spent annually at 60.57 a head.

Malta spends the lowest at 4.10 (5.93 euros) a head, while Finland - the country with the highest heart disease rate - spends 37.90 (54.83 euros).

The British Heart Foundation said the figures showed the UK was investing in good quality care for its 2.7m people living with heart disease.

While the number of people dying from heart disease has been falling in the UK since the 1970s, more people than ever are now living with its consequences.

Britain has one of the highest rates of heart disease along with many of the north European countries.

Lost productivity

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said on top of the healthcare costs involved with heart disease, including medication, hospital and GP appointments, the illness also prevented many patients from working, losing the UK 877m (1.3bn euros) a year in productivity.

It said that informal care for heart disease patients supplied by friends and family as their full-time job also cost 1.14bn (1.59bn euros) a year in lost economic activity.

BHF medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said the UK's high rate of spending in the area was something to be welcomed.

"The big spend reflects the scale of the problem - there is a real need for care and we should be proud that this country is committed to providing it," he said.

"The heart has no capability for repair, so when a patient survives a heart attack, their heart works at a lessened capacity.

"As treatment has improved, more and more people are surviving and in desperate need of continuing specialist care."

Paul Lincoln, chief executive of the National Heart Forum, agreed the amount of spending showed the UK was providing good care.

"It partly reflects the fact that the incidence of heart disease in the UK is higher than in many countries," he said.

"But it also shows we are investing in keeping people alive. There has been real progress in that respect over recent years and that is good."

What happened to prevention is better than cure ?

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