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30,000 excess cardiac deaths in England

The British Heart Foundation has used data gathered since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic to determine that thousands of people have died unnecessarily due to disruption in the NHS.

On average, this works out at around 230 extra heart-related deaths per week over the past two and a half years. As a result, the charity is urging the Government to implement a new strategy that will eradicate unacceptable wait times for ambulances.

Their cardiac deaths data outlines that the current average wait time for an ambulance in the United Kingdom when the patient is suspected to have had a heart attack is an incredible 48 minutes. This is 30 minutes longer than the target time of 18 minutes.

“There isn’t a moment to lose – the urgent needs of heart patients and NHS staff must be heard. “

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, The British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive

This extra half an hour is critical for patients who have had a heart attack as they require urgent and intensive care.

Additionally, their data predicts that the number of patients who will be on an NHS waiting list for a heart operation, test or other procedure will be at a whopping 395,000 by April 2023. Before the pandemic, this number was at 224,000 meaning the figure will have nearly doubled over a three-year span.

As a result, the charity has called on the Government to implement a new strategy to combat these “unacceptable” findings that will benefit current and future heart patients.

British Heart Foundation has highlighted the ongoing issues of excess cardiac deaths
The British Heart Foundation says an extra half an hour is critical for patients who have had a heart attack

 Every minute counts

These excessive wait times for ambulances and operations are unforgivable for any patient, but even more so when it is related to conditions such as coronary heart disease or abnormal heart rhythms.

The longer someone has to wait for treatment of these conditions the greater the chance of them developing permanent heart damage, becoming disabled or even dying.

The charity also states that there are millions of heart patients in the UK who have gone “missing” due to the fact it was so difficult for them to even access a simple face-to-face appointment with their GP, never mind open heart surgery.

One of the many knock-on effects of the pandemic is the fact that blood pressure management has been on the decline. This decline could potentially lead to an extra 11,190 heart attacks and 16,702 additional strokes.

The Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, Sonya Babu-Narayan, is urging the Government to better fund the NHS to help combat these alarming trends. She said:

“Far too many people continue to face long waits for time-sensitive heart care, putting them at higher risk of becoming more unwell the longer they wait with potentially devastating consequences.

There aren’t enough NHS staff to deal with the ever-rising tide of heart problems, and those that remain are overstretched, overwhelmed and close to leaving. This can’t become business as usual – heart care staff need fit-for-purpose facilities and a clear plan so patients can receive their time-critical care, allowing them to lead a fuller, healthier life away from hospital beds and waiting rooms.”

RTTReferrals DB
The pandemic caused significant disruption to elective care for cardiology (Data: Vuit)

Tackling cardiac deaths

The British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive, Dr Charmaine Griffiths, said: “It is devastating that the ongoing and extreme disruption to heart care has meant that 30,000 more families have lost a loved one.

“Today many hundreds of thousands of people fear that their heart condition could get worse before they get treatment – potentially stopping them from working or enjoying a full life. Many more are completely unaware they now have a condition putting them at a greater risk of early death from a heart attack or stroke.

“There isn’t a moment to lose – the urgent needs of heart patients and NHS staff must be heard. As this new Government draws up its priorities for healthcare, a heart strategy must be at the top of the agenda to prevent more heartbreak and needless loss of life.”

 Final thought

It has been clear since well before the Coronavirus pandemic that the NHS is underfunded and needs more government support – Covid merely amplified this. As patients continue to receive inadequate care, despite the best efforts of NHS staff, the time has come for significant investment to be made.

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