Nearly 284,000 heart patients waiting for vital care

Nearly 284,000 people were waiting for time critical heart operations and other heart procedures at the end of November 2021, 22 per cent higher than at the beginning of the pandemic.

The NHS England data includes emergency, urgent, and elective, or ‘routine,’ heart surgery and other heart procedures, such as stents or balloons to open narrow or blocked arteries. According to the figures, waiting lists are not only getting larger - more people are also waiting longer. More than one in four patients on waiting lists for vital heart care in England have been waiting at least 18 weeks.

Additionally, the number of people waiting over a year for heart tests and treatment in England reached 3,589 at the end of November 2021 – 128 times higher than before the pandemic began when just 28 people had been waiting this long. Nearly 100 people have now been waiting over two years in England.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, our Associate Medical Director and Consultant Cardiologist, said: “This is the 17th consecutive month that waiting lists for potentially life saving heart disease care have risen to record levels in England, as waiting times grow longer and longer. With the rapid spread of Omicron, soaring staff vacancies and even emergency heart attack care disrupted, this leaves us seriously concerned for many of the 7.6 million people living with cardiovascular disease in the UK.

“Cardiac care is time critical, and dangerous delays to non-emergency heart operations and other heart procedures may lead to heart attacks that needn’t have happened, disabling heart failure, or even premature death.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an even larger ‘hidden’ backlog of heart patients at risk of becoming more unwell or even dying before they can come forward for the care they need. Heart patients and health workers can’t wait any longer - they need to hear now how the vast, growing, and increasingly urgent backlog of cardiovascular care will be addressed.

"To prevent more death and disability from treatable heart conditions, the Government must urgently share its elective care recovery plan for England. This must contain a specific strategy for tackling the shortage of heart disease doctors and nurses.”

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