Cash shortfall hampers heart project

9 Mar 00
NHS managers and doctors were asking how they would cope with increased patient expectation and lack of cash this week as Health Secretary Alan Milburn launched a plan to cut deaths from heart diseases by 40% over the next ten years.

10 March 2000

Milburn said he was pump-priming the new National Service
Framework on heart disease with £50m and had appointed a leading cardiac specialist to lead the project. However, funding shortfalls will mean money being diverted into the programme from other parts of the NHS.

The money will be spent in four areas. Some £15m will create 100 new fast-track chest pain clinics by April 2002 and £21m will be spent speeding up ambulance response times.

New defibrillators and other cardiac equipment will cost a further £10m, while £3m will be used to pilot quicker ways of treating cardiac patients.

The cash is additional to the £50m Milburn announced last year to fund an extra 3,000 heart operations by 2002.

While NHS staff hailed the initiative, they also pointed out that Milburn had not set aside any new money for drugs or to fund the 30 new training places for heart surgeons.

The NHS Confederation welcomed the government's recognition that time scales had to be realistic. But it added that the present tight financial environment would make implementation more difficult. The pressure on the cash-limited GPs' drug budgets caused by the increasing demand for cholesterol-lowering drugs was of particular concern, it said.

Doctors also pointed out the need for investment. Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's General Practitioners' Committee, said more doctors and nurses were needed. 'More facilities will also be required. As the framework explicitly states, "the future speed of implementation will be shaped… by the total resources available to the NHS",' he added.

Professor Sir George Alberti, president of the Royal College of Physicians, who worked closely on the framework, said: 'The success of the programme relies and will be underpinned by an increase in the number of physicians available to treat patients, with more back-up staff, modernised facilities and an inventive approach to joint working.'


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