Article By: Matthew Young - READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE
The British Heart Foundation predicted those awaiting general cardiology care could increase to more than half a million by early 2024, which it said is more than double pre-pandemic levels from February 2020
The number of people waiting for heart surgery in England could rise to almost double pre-pandemic levels, a charity has warned.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimated that numbers could peak at 15,385 people by February next year.
The organisation also predicted those awaiting general cardiology care could increase to more than half a million by early 2024, which it said is more than double pre-pandemic levels from February 2020.
Without more investment in the health service and in the face of a potentially difficult winter, the BHF laid out its worst case scenario modelling.
It estimated it could take almost two years for a return to pre-pandemic waiting lists for cardiothoracic surgery, but that cardiology waiting lists might not return to early 2020 levels until the end of 2026.
Diane Phillimore, 62, a carer from Calne in Wiltshire, has high blood pressure and aortic stenosis - a condition where the aortic valve becomes narrowed, reducing blood flow to the rest of your body.
She needs an appointment for an echocardiogram – an ultrasound heart scan – to see if she needs surgery to replace or repair her valve.
Her original appointment in March 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, and she has now been waiting nearly 18 months to have it rescheduled.
Diane said: “I need an echocardiogram to know what’s going on inside. I was told that my valve may need to be replaced over a year ago. I’m concerned that it may be getting worse, but I just don’t know.
“I’m not really an anxious person, but I have been getting a little worried because I feel like I’ve just been forgotten.
James Wilkinson, 47 and from West Yorkshire, was diagnosed with endocarditis in 2019, which damaged his aortic valve.
He found out he had an infection that damaged his heart valve and that he would need an aortic valve replacement.
He had an operation cancelled for May 2020 because of the pandemic and it was rescheduled for October last year.
James was prepped for surgery, showered, shaved and waiting for his anaesthetic when he was told an emergency had come in so his operation would need to be rescheduled for the middle of October.
It was cancelled again because there was no ICU bed available and rescheduled for the end of the same month - before being again scrapped because there was not enough staff, he was told.
He said: “Waiting several months for surgery not only has health implications, but it also has a significant emotional and financial impact.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF, called on the Government to “act now” to “avoid preventable heartbreak for many families”.
He said: “At this critical moment, the Government must act now to avoid more lives lost to treatable heart conditions. Addressing the growing heart care backlog is only the start.
“We must also see a clear plan, alongside significant and ongoing investment, to build capacity back into the NHS and address the pandemic’s impact on health workers. Getting this right would avoid preventable heartbreak for many families.”
The charity’s report comes after separate modelling by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecast that the overall NHS waiting list in England could rise to 14 million by autumn next year, if millions of patients who did not receive care during the pandemic return to the health service for medical attention.