Background: Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programmes support patients to achieve professionally recommended cardiovascular prevention targets and thus good clinical status and improved quality of life and prognosis. Information on CR service delivery in Europe is sketchy.
Design: Postal survey of national CR-related organizations in European countries.
Methods: The European Cardiac Rehabilitation Inventory Survey assessed topics including national guidelines, legislation and funding mechanisms, phases of CR provided and characteristic of included patients.
Results: Responses were available for 28 of 39 (72%) countries; 61% had national CR associations; 57% national professional guidelines. Most countries (86%) had phase I (acute inhospital) CR, but with differing service availability. Only 29% reported provision to more than 80% patients. Phase II was also available, but 15 countries reported provision levels below 30%. Almost half (46%) had national legislation regarding phase II CR; three-quarters had government funding. Phase III was less supported: although available in most countries, 11 could not provide estimates of numbers participating. Thirteen reported that all costs were met by patients.
Conclusion: Fewer than half of eligible cardiovascular patients benefit from CR in most European countries. Deficits include absent or inadequate legislation, funding, professional guidelines and information systems in many countries. Priorities for improvement include promoting national laws and guidelines specific for CR and increasing both CR programme participation rates and CR infrastructure. The European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation can have an important coordinating role in sharing expertise among national CR-related agencies. Ultimately, such cooperation can accelerate CR delivery to the benefit of cardiac patients across Europe.