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HSE Launches Ireland's first-ever Model of Care for Integrated Cardiac Rehabilitation

 Ann Keady, a patient from Newcastle in Galway.

“It’s given me hope, it’s given me a feeling I can get back to what I was,” according to Ann Keady, a patient from Newcastle in Galway, who recently reflected on her positive experience of cardiac rehabilitation as part of her recent journey through cardiac disease.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and other circulatory diseases, remains a leading cause of death in Ireland. It is responsible for at least 9,000 deaths and 25,000 hospital admissions each year. It is estimated that approximately 90,000 people in Ireland live with heart failure alone, with an estimated 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year.  It is also recognised that the disease has a significant impact on patients, their families and carers.

The recent launch of the Model of Care for Integrated Cardiac Rehabilitation is a significant milestone and marks a commitment to improving the lives of people living with cardiovascular disease.

Cardiac rehabilitation has been demonstrated to consistently reduce cardiovascular illness, hospital admissions and death. It also increases a patient’s quality of life. Ireland’s first-ever Model of Care for Integrated Cardiac Rehabilitation is planning to ensure that people have access to timely, high-quality cardiac rehabilitation care – aiming to address the current experience where 40% of eligible patients are waiting three months to access the service.

For Ann, who experienced a heart attack in October 2022, after which she received treatment at University Hospital Galway, the challenges she faced were not only physical – she also faced mental health challenges:

"When I came out of hospital - that’s when things kind of hit me mentally and physically. You have a fear of going up the stairs, you feel every pain you get afterwards, you feel you’re having a heart attack.”

However, after initial apprehension, her subsequent attendance at the local cardiac rehabilitation service was transformative:

“It gave me hope, it gave me a feeling I could get back to what I was. I never thought I would say exercise is fun – and we have our moments - but we all just supported and encouraged each other.”

Supportive community

Ann discovered a supportive community of fellow patients and healthcare professionals who encouraged her every step of the way:“I was always strong and I have always seemed to be able to get there. But this was a situation where I really appreciated the help and support. I have to say that the nurses, physiotherapists, doctors and all staff were excellent. Their encouragement has been absolutely brilliant.  You feel you can do things, they encourage you to do them. We have a group of ten here and we just have great fun.”

According to Prof J William McEvoy, Chair of the Prevention Sub-Group of the National Heart Programme and Director of the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health, “the Model of Care for Integrated Cardiac Rehabilitation represents the culmination of years of hard work. It will support the provision of optimal care for patients living with chronic cardiovascular disease in Ireland. "

At the heart of the model is a person-centered approach that empowers patients. The model emphasises individualised goal setting. Aligned to Sláintecare, it aims to deliver cardiac rehabilitation services as close to home as possible, and advocates for the integration of cardiac rehabilitation services across hospital and community settings.

Watch Dr Susan Connolly, Integrated Care Cardiologist talk about the importance of cardiac rehabilitation on