The NHS needs to "up its game" and provide more specialist nurses for those suffering from heart failure, health campaigners have said.
Provision of these nurses must be a "top priority", the British Heart Foundation (BHF) insisted, after a new report showed a drop in the number of such specialists in the last four years.
Almost 94,000 people in Scotland are estimated to be suffering from heart failure, now more common due to the ageing population and more people surviving cardiac problems earlier in life.
A report by the Scottish Heart Failure Nurse Forum (SHFNF) found that the equivalent of 47 full-time specialist heart failure nurses were working in Scotland last year, down from 50 in 2008.
Of Scotland's 14 regional health boards, only four meet national guidelines and provide at least one specialist nurse per 100,000 people: Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Grampian and Highland. NHS Orkney has no specialist heart failure nursing service at all.
Marjory Burns, director of BHF Scotland, said: "NHS boards need to up their game and make the provision of these crucial services a top priority for the sake of heart failure patients, as well as the financial sustainability of the NHS in the longer term."
BHF previously funded some specialist heart failure nurses but is now "encouraging" the idea that these positions are paid for by the NHS.
"The overall drop in posts since 2008 indicates that NHS boards are not supporting the ongoing development of services as well as they should," Ms Burns said.
The SHFNF report highlighted research which found only 18% of patients under the care of a specialist heart failure nurse needed to be readmitted to hospital, compared with 97% of those without this support.
Patients with a specialist nurse also had shorter stays if they did require hospital care. This means that employing specialist nurses for heart failure patients can save the health service cash, the SHFNF suggested.