THE early diagnosis of people suffering from heart problems is at the centre of a pioneering new service launched by a NHS trust.

A new role has been created at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients are given the best possible care and support to people with heart failure, which affects almost a million people in the UK.

The heart failure team has appointed a dedicated nurse consultant, Paula Dailey, who aims to assess and investigate people who may have heart failure, quickly, offering them treatments and supporting them to manage their condition.

She said: “Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood around the body to meet its’ needs. The main symptoms are breathlessness, fatigue and swollen legs. Although it often affects older people, it can also occur in younger people.

"There is no cure for heart failure but symptoms can often be controlled for many years giving people a much improved quality of life.

“There is an increase in the number of people with heart failure as we are generally living longer and there are advanced treatments for heart attacks. Our service will focus on supporting this group of patients, many of whom will be referred to us by their GP with suspected heart failure.

"Our aim is to investigate quickly and work together to create a treatment plan. Heart failure can be complex to manage but with early diagnosis and treatment we can improve the outlook for our patients.

“On-going care and monitoring is provided by our team of community heart failure specialist nurses, who see patients in clinics or at home. Working together our aim is to help people manage their condition, picking up important changes and adjusting treatment as needed, with the aim of avoiding admission to hospital.”

Consultant cardiologist, Professor Jerry Murphy, said, “The specialist heart failure service works within our existing cardiology team which cares for patients with a wide range of cardiac symptoms and conditions, undertaking investigations and making treatment plans.

"There is already a very active research team linked to the clinical service and Paula’s focus will include participation in national and international clinical trials to ensure our patients have access to the very latest treatments.

"More people survive a heart attack than at any time in the past, thanks to swift action and medical care. This is all excellent news but these patients may well develop heart failure and we want to be at the forefront of new treatments.”