GPs are not referring patients suffering heart failure in large enough numbers, a European study has claimed.
The study found that just 45% of primary care doctors in nine countries, including the UK, would refer an older patient to a specialist.
This is despite the typical age range for heart failure being 65 to 80, the authors said.
Only one in three (32%) of the 2,965 doctors questioned said they would refer on a patient who was over the age of 80.
Three-quarters (75%) said they often or always diagnosed heart failure by signs and symptoms alone. Only 35% said they would often arrange for further investigations.
"A correct diagnosis of heart failure requires objective evaluation of cardiac function. This is particularly important in the elderly, in whom the preponderance of women and high prevalence of co-morbidities make a correct diagnosis based on symptoms and signs alone even more hazardous," the authors from the Sticares Cardiovascular Research Foundation wrote in the European Heart Journal.
In all, 2,041 cardiologists, 1,881 internists and geriatricians and 2,965 primary care doctors from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the UK responded to the study.
The authors found that primary care doctors, internists and geriatricians were far less likely to prescribe ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers to treat people. If they did, the drugs were often given at the incorrect doses.
Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director for the British Heart Foundation, said: "The main message from this study is that heart failure patients get better treatment if they are managed by a specialist."
Copyright © PA Business 2008