A HEART specialist who highlighted national shortcomings in the care of heart failure patients across the UK has reassured patients about the high quality of care in the North-East.

Professor Ahmet Fuat - a Darlington GP who is an honorary primary care cardiology professor at Durham University - caused a stir when he recently published research showing that the care of heart failure patients in the UK is inadequate and has not changed in a decade.

His research, funded by national charity Heart Research UK, also highlighted an unco-ordinated approach to diagnosis and management of the condition across the country and called for improvements in patient management..

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But after being challenged by a number of anxious patients Dr Fuat approached The Northern Echo and asked to set the record straight.

"A lot of patients were worried that this meant we are not doing well on heart failure and in the North-East that is far from the truth."

Prof Fuat, who helped draw up national guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure, said Darlington, South Durham and Middlesbrough offered some of the highest quality services for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure patients in the country.

Back in 2002 Darlington Memorial Hospital opened the first one stop diagnostic clinic for heart failure in the country.

Doctors in South Durham and Darlington are also able to refer patients with heart failure for specialist rehabilitation in the community.

"We were one of the first areas in the country to do that, using specialist heart failure nurses," he added.

Recently South Durham became one of 11 pilot sites in the country to provide intravenous diuretics in patients own homes, avoiding the need for patients with fluid retention to stay in hospitals for two to three days.

Prof Fuat pointed out that Darlington Memorial Hospital piloted the use of a specialist blood test which can help identify patients with heart failure.

He said patients with suspected heart failure in the North-East were also more likely to be given an electrocardiogram, or ECG to diagnose heart failure than in some other parts of the country.

"You really need an ECG to make proper diagnosis," he added.

Prof Fuat pointed to recent research which looked at the first 1,000 patients who came through the heart failure clinic at Darlington Memorial.

"We found that a very high proportion of these patients were getting all of the correct drugs and being fitted with the right devices, such as pacemakers."