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Background Cardiac rehabilitation for heart failure continues to be greatly underused worldwide despite being a Class I recommendation in international clinical guidelines and uptake is low in women and patients with mental health comorbidities. Methods Rehabilitation EnAblement in CHronic Heart Failure (REACH-HF) programme was implemented in four UK National Health Service early adopter sites (‘Beacon Sites’) between June 2019 and June 2020. Implementation and patient-reported outcome data were collected across sites as part of the National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation. The change in key outcomes before and after the supervised period of REACH-HF intervention across the Beacon Sites was assessed and compared to those of the intervention arm of the REACH-HF multicentre trial. Results Compared to the REACH-HF multicentre trial, patients treated at the Beacon Site were more likely to be female (33.8% vs 22.9%), older (75.6 vs 70.1), had a more severe classification of heart failure (26.5% vs 17.7%), had poorer baseline health-related quality of life (MLHFQ score 36.1 vs 31.4), were more depressed (HADS score 6.4 vs 4.1) and anxious (HADS score 7.2 vs 4.7), and had lower exercise capacity (ISWT distance 190 m vs 274.7 m). There appeared to be a substantial heterogeneity in the implementation process across the four Beacon Sites as evidenced by the variation in levels of patient recruitment, operationalisation of the REACH-HF intervention and patient outcomes. Overall lower improvements in patient-reported outcomes at the Beacon Sites compared to the trial may reflect differences in the population studied (having higher morbidity at baseline) as well as the marked challenges in intervention delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusion The results of this study illustrate the challenges in consistently implementing an intervention (shown to be clinically effective and cost-effective in a multicentre trial) into real-world practice, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Further research is needed to establish the real-world effectiveness of the REACH-HF intervention in different populations.

More information Original publication



Journal article


BMC Cardiovascular Disorders




BioMed Central Ltd

Publication Date





Sinead McDonagh received NIHR SPCR seedcorn and PDF funding


Heart failure, Cardiac rehabilitation, Treatment outcome, Quality of life, Routinely collected health data, Quantitative evaluation