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Provision of services for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Fourth report of a Joint Cardiology Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Abstract

The principal conclusions of the fourth report of the Joint Cardiology Committee are: 1 Cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of death and morbidity in the population and of utilisation of medical services. 2 Reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease is feasible, and better co-ordination is required of strategies most likely to be effective. 3 Pre-hospital care of cardiac emergencies, in particular the provision of facilities for defibrillation, should continue to be developed. 4 There remains a large shortfall in provision of cardiological services with almost one in five district hospitals in England and Wales having no physician with the appropriate training. Few of the larger districts have two cardiologists to meet the recommendation for populations of over 250,000. One hundred and fifty extra consultant posts (in both district and regional centres) together with adequate supporting staff and facilities are urgently needed to provide modest cover for existing requirements. 5 The provision of coronary bypass grafting has expanded since 1985, but few regions have fulfilled the unambitious objectives stated in the Third Joint Cardiology Report. 6 The development of coronary angioplasty has been slow and haphazard. All regional centres should have at least two cardiologists trained in coronary angioplasty and there should be a designated budget. Surgical cover is still required for most procedures and is best provided on site. 7 Advances in the management of arrhythmias, including the use of specialised pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and percutaneous or surgical ablation of parts of the cardiac conducting system have resulted in great benefit to patients. Planned development of the emerging sub-specialty of arrhythmology is required. 8 Strategies must be developed to limit the increased exposure of cardiologists to ionising radiation which will result from the expansion and increasing complexity of interventional procedures. 9 Supra-regional funding for infant cardiac surgery and transplantation has been successful and should be continued. 10 Despite advances in non-invasive diagnosis of congenital heart disease the amount of cardiac catheterisation of children has risen due to the increase in number of interventional procedures. Vacant consultant posts in paediatric cardiology and the need for an increase in the number of such posts cannot be filled from existing senior registrar posts. All paediatric cardiac units should have a senior registrar and in the meantime it may be necessary to make proleptic appointments to consultant posts with arrangements for the appointees to complete their training. 11 Provision of care for the increasing number of adolescent and adult survivors of complex congenital heart disease is urgently required. The management of these patients is specialised, and the committee recommends that it should ultimately be undertaken by either adult or pediatric cardiologists with appropriate additional training working in supra-regionally funded centers alongside specially trained surgeons. 12 Cardiac rehabilitation should be available to all patients in the United Kingdom. 13 New recommendations for training in cardiology are for a total of at least five years in the specialty after general professional training, plus a year as senior registrar in general medicine. An additional year may be required for those wishing to work in interventional cardiology and adequate provision must be made for those with an academic interest. 14 It is essential that both basic and clinical research is carried out in cardiac centres but these activities are becoming increasingly limited by the lack of properly funded posts in the basic sciences and restriction in the number of honorary posts for clinical research workers. 15 A joint audit committee of the Royal College of Physicians and the British Cardiac Society has been established to coordinate audit in the specialty. All district and regional cardiac centres should cooperate with the work of the committee, in addition to their participation in local audit activities.

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