By Dr Jonathan Shurlock
Member of Parliament for Strangford, Jim Shannon led a debate in the houses of commons outlining the broad and reaching impact of pandemic-related disruption to usual care for patients with cardiovascular disease. The debate of course touched on the significant pressure across the whole healthcare system including health and social care and then focussed on the direct impact this is already having on those with heart disease.
As with many areas across the NHS, the waiting lists for time-sensitive cardiac treatments have significantly risen in the last 2 years, in the context of a steady year-on-year increase in the last decade. Currently 319,000 patients are on these time critical waiting lists in England alone, with almost 30% waiting more than 4 months. There has been a tangible impact on community provision of cardiovascular care with a fall in the proportion of patients with a diagnosis of hypertension having their blood pressure checked in the community (from 89% to 64%). Just as worrying is the uncaptured and difficult to measure patients who have had missed or late presenting diagnoses of cardiovascular pathology, including myocardial infarction.
The tagline of the debate was “Those suffering from cardiovascular diseases deserve better”. Many MPs outlined the need for a ‘robust’ government led strategy for the whole of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The British Heart Foundation call for a strategy that addresses the staffing and resource shortfall was supported across the house.
Many MPs were clear to point out that these pitfalls in cardiovascular care provision were in-spite of ‘heroic’ efforts from health and social care workers! This highlights the ongoing challenges for those working in cardiovascular care and we hope identifies some areas for optimism moving forwards!
Data taken from the British Heart Foundation. See the full report here: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-public-affairs/the-untold-heartbreak-report