It's a problem that's worsening; around 56 per cent of cases were being diagnosed in the surgery 16 years ago, and researchers fear it could be because of an incentive scheme that rewards doctors for prescribing drugs rather than ordering tests.
In the UK, around 100,00 people—mainly women and the elderly—are not being diagnosed in the doctor's surgery, and this is putting their lives at risk, say researchers from the University of Oxford. In their analysis of around 93,000 heart patients, the researchers discovered that just 36 per cent had had their heart failure diagnosed in the surgery and at an early stage of the problem.
Even after diagnosis and treatment in hospital, just 14 per cent of family doctors are following-up on continued treatment. Around 20 per cent of patients were being treated by doctors in 2002.
Lead researcher Nathalie Conrad fears the escalating problem could have something to do with the incentive scheme that rewards doctors for prescribing more drugs but "is not designed to really incentivise doctors to do more screening of heart failure and to actively pick up on patients."
Typical symptoms of early-stage heart failure include a shortness of breath, fatigue and swollen ankles.