Government rehabilitation programmes for heart-attack victims are failing, new figures have revealed.
Seven years after the follow-up care was intended to reach 85% of heart patients, a national audit showed that only 38% of 83,540 patients went on to take part in the programmes.
The rehabilitation has been structured to help people come to terms with the emotional and physical trauma of having a heart attack, angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery. Patients on the programme are helped by nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and psychologists to discuss healthy living and coping with their conditions.
The audit was completed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and it has been published in the National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation (NACR).
Only 34% of heart attack sufferers, 30% of angioplasty patients and 68% of bypass patients attended the programmes.
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said: "Referral to cardiac rehabilitation should be a routine part of treating heart patients, and until this happens they will continue to miss out."