Around half of people with heart and circulatory diseases have found it harder to get medical treatment since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a British Heart Foundation (BHF) survey.
In addition, almost a third have found it harder to get the medicines they need, according to the YouGov poll of 1,409 UK adults with known heart and circulatory conditions such as congenital heart disease and heart rhythm problems, as well as those who’ve previously suffered a heart attack or stroke.
The BHF says difficulties in accessing vital treatment and care could have a damaging impact on people’s health, and even result in an increase in deaths. It could also lead to a tidal wave of increased NHS pressure as a result of heart and circulatory patients becoming sicker while awaiting hospital investigations and treatment, the charity adds.
The BHF is calling on the Government and the NHS to urgently address the immediate needs of heart and circulatory patients who have had care postponed during the coronavirus pandemic. The charity argues this can be done by increasing the number of heart procedures, surgeries and tests that are carried out, such as procedures for pacemakers and stents, as well as heart imaging tests. In addition, NHS support systems should be restored for people with conditions, such as heart failure, which can help keep people out of hospital.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:
“People with heart and circulatory diseases are already at increased risk of dying from Covid-19, and their lives should not be put at even greater risk by missing out on treatment for their condition. While doing all we can to fight the virus, we must continue to provide care for people with heart and circulatory conditions in a safe way.
“At the very least, around 28,000 planned inpatient heart procedures have been deferred in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in England alone. This backlog will only get larger and the patients in need of treatment could get sicker as their care is delayed further. If hospital investigations and procedures are delayed too long, it can result in preventable permanent long-term complications, such as heart failure.
“In addition, non-hospital-based health services must not be forgotten, as these enable people with heart and circulatory diseases to stay well and out of hospital.”