The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has announced that a new “tweak” to the classic blood test could help detect heart failure.

The charity says that it partnered with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals to refine the use of a common blood test, in order to detect heart failure in more patients as early as possible.

NT pro-Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP), a blood test used as the first step in diagnosing suspected heart failure, determines whether a patient will go on to need an echocardiogram (an ultrasound scan of the heart) to confirm a heart failure diagnosis.

However, a new audit has unveiled that patients were undergoing tests unnecessarily, or not getting the echocardiogram they needed if the result was raised. As a result, a simpler algorithm was created in order for the test to be used more effectively to target higher risk patients.

The proposed improvement could “cut costs and save patients avoidable trips to their GP”. Over a six month period, the audit found unnecessary tests costed just one small area of the hospital around £1,600.

Sarah Young, nurse consultant cardiology at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, who led the audit, said: “What we want is for the right patients to get the right test at the right time, which will improve their care and treatment. Using these tests appropriately will not only save money, it will mean people that need an echocardiogram will be able to access this when needed.”

Several factors could be contributing to the rise in people living with heart failure, including an ageing and growing population, growing numbers of heart attack survivors and stubbornly high rates of people living with heart failure risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.