British Heart Foundation calls for urgent resumption of routine services for heart and circulatory diseases

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Sonya Babu Narayan

The British Heart Foundation (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 made its statement after a survey it carried out found that nearly half (47%) of UK adults with heart and circulatory diseases find it harder to get medical treatment in lockdown.

A press release from the BHF estimates that at least 28,000 planned inpatient heart procedures have been delayed in England alone since the pandemic began, and calls for an increase in the number of heart procedures, surgeries and tests that are carried out, such as for pacemakers and stents, as well as heart imaging tests. In addition, it says NHS support systems should be restored for people with conditions such as heart failure to help keep people out of hospital.

Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, says in the statement: “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.”

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 have previously suffered a heart attack or stroke, also found that almost one-third (32%) have found it harder to get the medicines they need.

Of the people who found it more difficult to access medical treatment from a healthcare professional during the Covid-19 crisis:

  • 41% said they’d had a planned test, surgery or procedure postponed or cancelled;
  • 48% said a lack of available face-to-face appointments was a reason for this.

In addition, anxieties remain about whether patients should seek medical help.

  • 42% said they didn’t want to put extra pressure on the health service;
  • 27% said they were concerned about the risk of developing Covid-19 in a healthcare setting.

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