National Survey On Echocardiography Services In Ireland

Commissioned by Croí, in collaboration with the Irish Institute for Clinical Measurement Science. Prepared by Bassline Strategy Ltd.

Urgent Needed - Timely Diagnosis

Heart valve disease is a serious heart condition which can be fatal if left undetected and untreated. It is largely (but not exclusively) a condition of ageing and as the global population is steadily getting older, heart valve disease is on the rise. Up to 13% of people over the age of 75 are thought to be living with heart valve disease, and the number of people affected is expected to double by 2040 and triple by 2060. The rate of mortality in untreated, severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis (the most common type of heart valve disease) is between 25% and 50% per year.

While common and serious, the good news is that this condition is treatable. However, a key barrier to treatment is access to a timely diagnosis. A critical test for diagnosis is a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram.

Croí believes that all patients requiring an echo should have equitable and timely access as recommended by international best practice. Read the summary now.

Croí, the heart and stroke charity, commissioned a nationwide survey of public and private hospital cardiology departments to provide a ‘map’ of echo services in Ireland. 37 out of 40 departments responded. Croí, with the support of the IICMS and their Cardiology Faculty, approached every Model 2, Model 3, Model 4 and private hospital in the state.

The aim is to provide an effective heatmap of echocardiography services in Ireland, to reduce wait times and improve patient outcomes. The data gathered herein will form part of an evidence-base to advocate for greater access to echocardiography equipment and improved workforce planning as part of a renewed, cohesive national cardiac strategy. In compiling this report, we have consulted widely with a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, GPs, nurses, cardiac physiologists and patient representatives to ensure a robust dataset.

“Echocardiography” (echo) describes a test which uses sound waves (ultrasound) to take a moving picture of the heart. It is routinely used in the diagnosis and management of a range of heart conditions, in particular valve diseases, but also conditions such as heart failure and in non-cardiac disciplines, such as oncology. A doctor may refer a patient for an echocardiogram if they suspect problems with the heart valves or symptoms of shortness of breath or chest pain.

In Ireland, the service is led by cardiac physiologists, a specific role within cardiac diagnostics.

Overarching Recommendations:

The Department of Health urgently needs to commission a new National Cardiovascular Health Strategy which specifically includes heart valve disease.

Government & HSE needs to fund improved access to echo services with special focus on direct GP access.

Read the full report:

Pre-Budget Submission 2023

Croí uses a values-led and evidence-based approach, to engage with decision makers for the best interests of heart and stroke patients. The National Survey on Echocardiography Services provides strong and achievable recommendations to improve access to key diagnostic tools for patients with heart valve disease.

The Pre-Budget Submission provides a financial underpinning to the survey’s recommendations, all costed and cross-referenced.

Read the full Pre-Budget submission:

This report was commissioned by Croí, the West of Ireland Cardiac & Stroke Foundation and written by Bassline Strategy, in collaboration with the Irish Institute for Clinical Measurement Science. The initiative was supported by Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic.

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