Key Findings
signs and symptoms
Early and accurate diagnosis is critical to ensuring people with heart failure can access treatment to help manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of long-term complications.11 However, the three key symptoms of heart failure – breathlessness, swollen ankles and legs, and increased fatigue – are not exclusive to the condition.17 This means it can be difficult for patients and healthcare professionals to accurately identify heart failure.
While 32.6% of patients first visited their GP within 48 hours of developing symptoms, more than a quarter of patients (25.9%) waited longer than four weeks.2 Women were more likely to hold off making an appointment, with 13.2% 2 waiting longer than four months compared with 5.8% of men.2

Our research also found that almost one third of patients (32.5%) have been given the wrong diagnosis by a medical professional, with asthma (25%), anxiety or depression (20.7%) and acid reflux (18.7%) the most common misdiagnoses.2 These statistics are dependent on patients’ gender and age. Women are almost twice as likely to be misdiagnosed than men (44.5% versus 22.7%), while 43.9% of respondents aged under 45 received the incorrect diagnosis, compared with 31.2% of those aged 55+. 30.8% of those aged under 45 receiving an incorrect diagnosis were told they had anxiety or depression.2

The earlier a diagnosis is made the better the outcome and the less worry there is for patients and their families.18 This is why diagnostic tools such as NT-proBNP, echocardiograms and specialist referral are recommended by NICE.19 Following the guidance leads to a lower risk of unplanned hospital admissions,
15
reducing not only the personal toll but also the cost to the NHS.
If you were incorrectly diagnosed with any conditions by a medical professional before receiving your heart failure diagnosis, what were you incorrectly diagnosed with? 2
Sarah’s story
Sarah, from Hull, was 42 years old at the time of her diagnosis. She had visited her GP multiple times across 10 months before receiving a final diagnosis of heart failure.

During those 10 months, she received red-herring diagnoses like rheumatological concerns, despite having a family history of cardiac problems and Type 1 diabetes, a common comorbidity. She was even told her symptoms were unlikely to be related to her heart because she was ‘young and female’.
“No, my GP never mentioned that they thought I might have heart failure. In fact, one of them actually said, your symptoms are probably not to do with your heart because you’re young and you’re female. Even though my father had had a heart condition and even though I’ve been Type 1 diabetic for 40 years, it was never considered.”