Thursday 26th November 2015

Heart Valve Voice, a multidisciplinary group of leading physicians, surgeons and heart valve disease patients, has been granted charity status in Scotland. The charity aims to highlight the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of heart valve disease, which affects over one million people aged 65 and over in the UK. Heart Valve Voice was granted charity status in England and Wales in 2014 and has campaigned to raise awareness of heart valve disease amongst both patients and healthcare practitioners and improve diagnosis and referral rates throughout England and Wales.

Heart Valve Voice, the UK’s first and only charity dedicated to heart valve disease, has been awarded charity status in Scotland.

Heart Valve Voice aims to highlight the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of heart valve disease in the UK, including timely detection of the serious and life-threatening disease, which affects over one million over 65s in the UK. If left untreated, life expectancy for patients with severe symptoms can be less than two years.

If heart valve disease is diagnosed, referred and treated in a timely manner, patients with the condition can have similar longevity to those without heart valve disease. However, some of the main symptoms of heart valve disease, such as fatigue and tiredness, can be mistaken by both patients and healthcare professionals as being part of the natural ageing process and, as a result, opportunities to diagnose the disease can be missed.

One of the first steps in diagnosing heart valve disease is the use of a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s chest. However, a study carried out by Heart Valve Voice found that 59% of people in the UK over the age of 60 years said that their doctor rarely or never checks their heart with a stethoscope.

Heart Valve Voice has already spearheaded a number of initiatives and campaigns which have been directed towards increasing awareness of heart valve disease amongst the public and healthcare professionals. Campaign highlights have included, public heart valve check-up events at sporting events, such as September’s England vs Australia One Day Test Match at Old Trafford, the development of the first ever GP Guidance document on heart valve disease and a parliamentary launch of a Heart Valve Voice White Paper which highlights the current environment surrounding heart valve disease.

Professor Ben Bridgewater, Cardiac Surgeon, University Hospital of South Manchester and Chair of Heart Valve Voice, commented on Heart Valve Voice being awarded charity status in Scotland: “This is a hugely significant moment for both Heart Valve Voice and the treatment of heart valve disease throughout the UK. Heart valve disease is a life-threatening and often misunderstood condition in which referral and treatment rates need to improve. I have seen the significant work that Heart Valve Voice has achieved in a short period of time and, now that the charity is recognized in Scotland, we can now extend this work North of the border.”