Study links mental health and slow heart failure recovery

Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ECS) Conference in Rome, Italy shows that heart failure patients who also suffer from mental health conditions are more likely to face an increased length of stay in hospital.

The Aston University study, which looked at over 30,000 heart failure patients (1), found that those with a mental health condition spent an average 3.3 days longer in hospital, costing on average an extra £800 per admission for the National Health Service (NHS). The trend was particularly prevalent in patients suffering from depression (+3.4 days), dementia (+4.2 days) and bipolar disorder (+8.8 days).

Dr Rahul Potluri, Founder of the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit at Aston Medical School and senior author of the research paper, said:, “The results of this study should be ringing alarm bells. We have firm evidence that mental health conditions substantially impact physical recovery times. This raises pressing questions about the role of holistic patient treatment within our health services. What’s more, with an extended stay in hospital for a heart failure patient suffering a mental health condition estimated to cost an extra £800, there’s a serious debate to be had about resource allocation. We must invest to ensure we’re getting best value for the taxpayer and, critically, best care for patients.”

Dr Paul Carter, lead author of the study, commented: “This is the first large study to highlight the detrimental impact of mental health conditions in patients with heart failure and how it impacts on care in the NHS. Our challenge now is to find out why these mental conditions are prolonging the hospital stays in heart failure patients. It may be that heart failure services have to be modified to include mental health professionals in the timely assessment of these patients to reduce this burden on the NHS. Ultimately, as it stands, it has huge cost implications for the NHS.”

Professor Asif Ahmed, Founder and Executive Dean of Aston Medical School and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Health at Aston University, added: “We currently have a very low understanding into how mental health impacts on physical health and further and significant research is required. What is clear from this study, however, is that with an increasingly over-stretched NHS, an ageing population and an ever greater awareness of mental health challenges, it is imperative that more is done to integrate understanding of mental health in all treatment areas.”

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