The National Heart Programme (NHP) is the overarching body charged with the development of acute and community cardiovascular care on a par with international standards. It has specific briefs to ensure equity of access to hospital and community care structures is integral to the development of care pathways that support the implementation of Sláintecare.

Aims of the National Heart Programme:

Underpinned by a whole-system approach, the NHP aims to improve population health, reduce health inequalities, improve patient outcomes and reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the population. The programme is driving an integrated approach to prevention, early detection, slowing disease progression and providing optimal treatment towards enhancing quality and duration of life and will support the delivery of the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

The NHP is the primary reference point for providing cross-service cardiology solutions in relation to new models/pathways of care based on local, regional and national population needs identified priorities and workforce projections. 

Objectives of the National Heart Programme include:

  • Developing the programme in line with Sláintecare principles;
  • Facilitating an improvement in morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease through prevention, self-management, early diagnosis and the provision of high-quality, integrated care following diagnosis, with a particular focus on addressing health inequalities;
  • Working across the acute and primary care sectors to support the delivery of patient-centred cardiovascular care in the community, where appropriate;
  • Providing ongoing guidance on the appropriate management of individuals with cardiovascular disease, based on best international practice and evidence including developing models of care, guidelines, pathways, bundles of care and treatment plans;
  • Engaging fellow clinicians around the country to implement the programme models of care, guidelines, pathways etc.;
  • Identifying appropriate resources required to support the delivery of the aims of the programme;
  • Identifying and supporting the implementation of service improvement/quality improvement initiatives; and,
  • Engaging with key stakeholders and fostering relationships at the national and local levels to support the achievement of the aims of the programme.

The organisational structure of the National Heart Programme

The Programme sits within the organisational area of Clinical Innovation and Design, which is the national clinical leadership function of the Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) of the HSE. The work of the Programme is determined by the priorities of the CCO and aligned to national healthcare priorities. The National Lead for Integrated Care reports directly to the CCO and oversees the work of the National Clinical Programmes (NCPs) through the National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead (NCAGL), in line with organisational priorities. The National Lead for Integrated Care works to ensure integrated care is a key element of all programmes whilst also ensuring that prevention, early detection and management are embedded across all NCPs.

Underpinned by a population health approach, the NCAGL for Chronic Disease advises on measures to reduce health inequalities and the burden of chronic disease within the population. The NHP Clinical Lead is accountable to the NCAGL for Chronic Disease and reports to them in relation to strategic development. A multidisciplinary Working Group and a Clinical Advisory Group support the work of the National Clinical Lead.

The Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) of the NHP was established in late 2020. At the initial meeting of the CAG it was agreed to develop a strategy on priority areas for service development in acute cardiology over the next several years. To this end, a number of sub-groups were established. The consensus documents of these groups have been collated and consolidated by the CAG to inform the direction of the NHP focus on acute services. Cardiac imaging has been agreed as a critical and urgent need for cardiovascular healthcare.

The NHP is currently focused on supporting the implementation of the Enhanced Community Care Programme including the roll out of the specialist cardiology services in the community.