Disproportionality in The Treatment of Women Suffering Heart Attacks

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2020 National Women's Conference
22 October 2019

Conference notes with great concern research conducted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) confirming that 50% of women were more likely to receive wrong diagnosis when suffering heart attacks and that over 10 years 8,200 women in England and Wales died needless after a heart attack. The BHF report highlights that each year around 35,000 women in the UK are admitted to hospital following a heart attack, resulting in an average of 98 women a day or 4 per hour. The situation is far worse in Scotland which has the highest rate of heart disease and angina in the UK resulting in around 2,600 deaths amongst women (approximately 7 every day).Experts cites inequalities in the way women were being diagnosed in comparison to men. This was also evident in treatment and aftercare. The research indicated that unconscious biases were limiting the survival chances of women with some common myths, such as heart disease and heart attacks only affecting men. As a consequence, women are being diagnosed with gastric problems or panic attacks. The report established that women were unaware of their risk, and slow to seek medical help.MBBRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries), published a report which found that heart disease remains the leading cause of women in the UK dying during pregnancy, or up to 6 weeks after giving birth. Further research suggests that women with high blood pressure during pregnancy are at a higher risk of heart attacks and stroke in later life. Many of the symptoms of heart disease, i.e. shortness of breath, tiredness and swollen ankles have similarities to symptoms associated with pregnancy and shortly after giving birth.Conference acknowledges that there have been significant improvements in the treatment of heart attacks compared to the 1960s whereby 7 out of 10 heart attacks in the UK proved fatal, today 7 out of 10 people who have a heart attack will survive. Despite the fact that heart attacks are now more treatable, women are missing out on vital treatment. Global studies undertaken by a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Leeds, confirms that this problem is not unique to the UK, and that gender gaps in treatment exits across the globe, suggesting this is a deeply entrenched and complex issue. Taken in isolation, the differences in care are very small, but when we look at this across the population of the UK, it adds up to a significant loss of life.Conference women�s lives matter. Therefore, early detection of heart disease/heart attack and effective treatment for women can significantly increase the survival rate of many women. Conference calls on the National Women�s Committee to:1)Raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart attacks amongst women by producing documentation that can be placed on UNISON website and in relevant UNISON journals. 2)Work with the Health Service Group on seeking to influence Public Health England on this issue.3)Liaise with the NEC and appropriate bodies.