People with heart failure are twice as likely to die if they are admitted to a general hospital ward rather than one specialising in cardiology, research has suggested.

Around a quarter of a million people in England and Wales die every year from heart failure, with about 900,000 people in the UK suffering from the condition.

New research published in the journal Heart has found that patients admitted to general NHS wards are two and a half times more likely to die than those admitted to cardiology wards.

The authors, from universities and hospitals around the UK, surveyed treatment for the first 10 patients admitted every month with a major diagnosis of heart failure over the course of a year.

Their audit for England and Wales looked at the investigations people received, any specialist management, how long patients stayed in hospital and death rates.

The authors concluded that people were much more likely to die on general wards, even when other risk factors were taken into account.

They said: “The prognosis of patients hospitalised with heart failure remains poor and investigation and treatment suboptimal.

“Specialist services are associated with higher rates of investigation, treatment and improved outcome.”

Appropriate investigations were not always carried out on patients, but this was found to be the case particularly on general wards.

More than 6,000 patients with an average age of 78 were studied at 86 hospitals. Heart failure, which mostly affects people in older age groups, occurs when the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.

Overall, women fared worse than men when it came to getting the right investigations and treatment.