Two thirds of heart attack survivors in the UK failed to be referred to take part in a potentially life-saving rehabilitation programme, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The 2009 National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation surveyed 83,540 heart attack sufferers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2007 to 2008.

The Audit found that only 34% received a cardiac rehabilitation programme despite government targets to refer at least 85% of them.

Only 30% of angioplasty patients and 68% of those who had a coronary artery bypass operation were referred to the service, the report said.

Cardiac rehabilitation gives heart patients a 26% greater chance of surviving in the five years following their diagnosis, providing them with the necessary skills to manage their illness, BHF said.

BHF associate medical director Mike Knapton said that recovery from a heart attack is not over when a patient leaves hospital and heart patients should receive the ongoing support they need.