Medicine for Members’ – heart failure event

5 July 2023

Specialist Royal Free London heart failure clinicians showcased their incredible work to improve patient care at our latest Medicine of Members' event. You can watch the recording here.

At the event, titled, ‘Heart failure: a serious but treatable and reversible condition’, three clinicians spoke about the life-changing work they have been carrying out and the difference it's making to our patients. 

Opening the event, Dr Tim Lockie, consultant cardiologist and clinical service lead for cardiology, explained how heart failure treatment has changed in recent years. He said: “Heart failure had been the result of many cardiac problems and once you got to that, it was a spiral downhill. 

“There was not much you could do other than very basic treatment that had not been changed for about 20 years. There have been some real innovations in the last few years and many of these are total game changers for our patients”. 

Dr Lockie continued by explaining that pre-existing medical conditions including coronary artery disease and valve disease are the leading causes of heart failure and highlighted that lifestyle choices, such as alcohol intake, also contribute to the number of people who experience heart failure in the UK.

Dr Carol Whelan, consultant cardiologist and clinical lead for heart failure, added that the service is striving to ensure early diagnosis for heart failure as 80% of diagnoses are among inpatients. She spoke about diagnosis and how changes in medications are making a difference to patients’ quality and length of life. 

A story of a patient, Abdullah, who was diagnosed with heart failure at the age of 23 was shared.

Dr Whelan first treated him five years ago, when he was an engineering student in his final year and was experiencing symptoms. It was feared he may need a heart transplant or another form of advanced treatment, but he responded well to heart failure medication and was discharged from hospital. He is followed up in the heart failure clinic and continues to do well. His heart function has now considerably improved on this medication.

Dr Ameet Bakhai, consultant cardiologist, research director and clinical research data lead, focused on the digitisation of the heart failure pathway. He said: “We all sat as a cardiac team along with emergency department, nursing and pharmacy colleagues, and said let’s look at all of the guidelines to see the best way for patients to journey through the heart function service at the Royal Free London.”

These conversations led to Barnet Hospital becoming one of the first sites in the world to have a digitised pathway for patients with suspected and diagnosed with heart failure in December 2019 alongside NICE guidelines. 

Dr Bakhai explained that “as soon as a patient’s NTproBNP blood test is shown to be elevated, they are on the digital pathway without any manual intervention. Because of this, over 40,000 patient episodes have been captured through this pathway”. 

During the pandemic, it also became evident that patients with the very elevated blood test marker had a poorer prognosis when admitted with COVID-19 infections alongside other biomarkers.

The Royal Free Hospital introduced the digital pathway in October 2021 following the success at Barnet Hospital, when their new electronic health record system was launched. 

During the closing remarks, Councillor Alison Moore, Barnet Council’s appointed governor, said: “It is fantastic to see so many attendees at this event. The work being carried out at the trust is inspiring. I am sure that our members and the Council of Governors will join me in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their amazing work with us.”

Medicine for Members’ events are hosted by our governors and focus on topics which are important to patients, staff and the local community. You can find out more about Medicine for Members' events on our website.

We hope you can join us at future Medicine for Members’ events.

Image: Barnet Hospital and Royal Free Hospital heart failure teams