Thousands of heart patients could die needlessly after being forced to wait up to TWO YEARS for life-saving scans – with 65,000 people delayed at least six weeks as Covid cripples NHS
- Enormous Covid backlog means 64,962 patients in England waiting for longer than six-week NHS target for heart ultrasounds
- ‘Distressing’ waiting list is 20 times longer than pre-pandemic list of 3,238 patients
- A record 275,569 patients were waiting for heart treatment or surgery at the end of September, as the backlog continues to grow
Thousands of heart patients could die unnecessarily because they are having to wait up to two years for life-saving scans, research shows.
The enormous Covid backlog means 64,962 patients in England have been waiting longer than the six-week NHS target for heart ultrasounds, known as echocardiograms.
This ‘distressing’ waiting list is 20 times longer than the pre-pandemic list of 3,238 patients, analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shows.
Echocardiograms are scans that are used to diagnose and monitor heart disease and heart valve problems.
The enormous Covid backlog means 64,962 patients in England have been waiting longer than the six-week NHS target for heart ultrasounds, known as echocardiograms (stock image)
They look at the structure of the heart and nearby blood vessels, and are needed to decide the best course of treatment.
But spiralling waiting lists for non-Covid care mean patients face waiting months or even years for the crucial checks – causing delays to treatment and potentially leading to death or disability. About 10,000 fewer echocardiograms are being carried out each month than before the pandemic, the BHF found.
Meanwhile, a record 275,569 patients were waiting for heart treatment or surgery at the end of September as the backlog continues to grow, latest NHS England figures show.
Yesterday, a cross-party group of 52 MPs and peers wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning that delays to heart care during the pandemic have already led to 5,800 excess deaths.
Meanwhile, a record 275,569 patients were waiting for heart treatment or surgery at the end of September as the backlog continues to grow, latest NHS England figures show
The letter added: ‘Treatments like heart surgery aren’t a luxury. Long waits for diagnosis and treatment of conditions like coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure are emotionally distressing and can increase the risk of someone becoming more unwell or even dying while they wait for care.’
Heart and circulatory diseases cause one in four deaths in the UK – 160,000 each year, and about 7.6million Britons live with these diseases. Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: ‘We need to see a specific plan for cardiovascular care recovery focused on tackling cardiology vacancies, training more heart specialists, and using new diagnostic hubs to deliver delayed heart diagnosis and care.’ Waiting lists have snowballed since the start of the pandemic to 5.8million last week.
And health chiefs say the backlog will only grow this winter because A&E departments are ‘overwhelmed’ – some hospitals have already cancelled elective care.
Health chiefs say the backlog will only grow this winter because A&E departments are ‘overwhelmed’ – some hospitals have already cancelled elective care. Pictured: Number of Covid infections yesterday in the UK
Hoping to tackle the backlog, Jeremy Hunt will today pile pressure on Mr Javid to fix the NHS staffing crisis. Mr Hunt will table an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to force the Government to publish independent workforce projections every two years.
These will help ministers ensure there are enough doctors and nurses in training to meet future demand – currently, there is no such public data for England.
Projections from the Health Foundation charity show that an extra 4,000 doctors and 17,000 nurses will be required to clear the backlog.
Social care is also facing severe staffing shortfalls – and health leaders are now calling for a £500 bonus for all 1.5million workers in the sector to stop them taking Christmas jobs with firms such as Amazon.
NHS Providers warns there is already a shortage of 100,000 carers, which is preventing hospitals from discharging patients who are ready to leave. Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers, warned that large signing-on bonuses could tempt care staff to quit.
Hoping to tackle the backlog, Jeremy Hunt pictured) will today pile pressure on Mr Javid to fix the NHS staffing crisis