Heart care waiting list could double in north-east London, says charity

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, says that delays to cardiovascular treatment is risking lives - Credit: British Heart Foundation

Almost 15,000 people in north-east London could be waiting for life-saving heart diagnosis and treatment two years on from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a charity.

New modelling by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has forecast that the number of people waiting for heart care in the region by March 2022 could be nearly double the size of the waiting list before the pandemic began. 

In February 2020, NHS North East London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) reported that 7,494 people were on cardiology waiting lists in their area.  

The BHF’s worst-case-scenario analysis predicts that, by March 2022, this could reach 14,525 – a 94 per cent increase. 

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at BHF, said: “Delay in diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases is not just about improving symptoms, however important that is – it is about saving lives.  

“The government must act now to avoid more lives lost to treatable heart conditions.” 

Long waits for treatment of conditions like coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure can exacerbate them and even increase the risk of death, BHF said.

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According to the charity, there were 5,800 ‘excess’ deaths from heart and circulatory conditions in the first year of the pandemic in England. 

The BHF’s analysis is a ‘worst-case-scenario' forecast, detailing a possible scenario in which the NHS in England suffers from a bad winter or a rise in Covid-19. 

The charity says that the government could reduce the heart care backlog by years through investing rapidly to build capacity and introduce a clear plan for cardiovascular services.

The NHS North East London CCG was contacted for comment and referred this paper to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

A DHSC spokesperson said: “The NHS has faced huge challenges over the past year due to Covid-19 and we continue to support our incredible health and care staff who have kept services open for thousands of patients. 

“This includes dedicated investment of £1 billion this year to tackle the backlog and reduce waiting lists. The NHS is also trialling innovative ways to accelerate elective recovery and enable more hospitals to go further, faster.” 

They noted that data for May 2021 shows that new referrals for cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.