Covid ‘Collateral damage’ as 300,000 in UK await heart treatment

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The report highlighted how middle and low income countries especially had been impacted, meaning the number of people dying at home or in the community from heart conditions has increased. Hospitals around the world during the pandemic saw a 22 per cent fall in people attending hospital after a serious heart attack, where one of the arteries is completely blocked, and a 34 per cent fall in those attending with a less severe heart attack, where an artery is partially blocked.

The study, led by the University of Leeds, also pointed to a 34 per cent drop in heart operations globally.

In cases where people got medical help, there was on average more than an hour’s delay in reaching hospital or having contact with paramedics.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “We need a comprehensive and specific plan to address the burden of cardiovascular care, including the backlog, and provide immediate and long-term solutions to our workforce shortage.

“Without this, we will continue to see heart attacks, lasting heart damage, or even premature deaths that could have been avoided.”

The BHF said 309,796 people at the end of March were on a waiting list for cardiac treatment in England and this figure had been growing for the previous 21 months.

The Leeds team analysed data from 189 research papers looking at Covid’s impact on cardiovascular services from 48 countries, covering two years from December 2019.

The findings showed a “substantial global decline” in hospital admissions, hospitals and clinics struggling to give the gold standard treatment, with some examples of drugs being used instead of interventional procedures such as fitting a stent into a blocked artery.

The results were an increased death rate among cardiovascular patients in hospitals in low to middle income countries, with more people dying at home from the disease in the UK.

The report, published in the European Heart Journal, stated: “Collateral cardiovascular damage from missed diagnoses and delayed treatments will continue to accrue unless mitigation strategies are speedily implemented.”

“The deferral of interventional procedures leaves many patients at high risk of adverse outcomes.”

Senior author Professor Chris Gale said: “The repercussions of Covid-19 will be with us for a long while yet.

“There is little doubt that there will continue to be deaths and illness that would not have otherwise occurred. Urgent action is needed to address the burden of cardiovascular disease left in the wake of the pandemic.”

The study found the number of people dying worldwide from any cause among patients in hospital after having had a major heart attack or heart failure was up by 17 per cent. 

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