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Heart patients facing ‘unthinkable’ delays

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Heart patients facing ‘unthinkable’ delays

That’s according to the British Heart Foundation

The number of people seeking advice about heart care has soared as patients face “frightening delays”, a charity has said.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said that demand to its helpline has “soared amid ongoing delays to people’s heart care”.

One patient described a 72-week wait for heart surgery, which “would have been unthinkable just a few years ago,” the BHF said.

The BHF said there was a 40% increase in people contacting its heart helpline between December and February compared to the same period the year before.

Some 7,858 people reached out for help and support during these months, the charity said.

This includes 3,559 people getting in touch with the helpline in February alone – up from 2,029 in February 2023.

The heart charity said it has had to double the number of cardiac nurses available to work on its helpline to cope with the rising demand.

Many people who contacted the helpline raised concerns at not being able to get a diagnosis or an appointment for a heart problem, it said.

The BHF highlighted the latest NHS figures which show that about 400,000 people were waiting for a heart test, operation or other heart procedure at the end of January in England.

The charity has estimated that tens of thousands more are waiting for a GP referral, regular check-up with a specialist or for aftercare such as cardiac rehabilitation.

Chloe MacArthur, helpline nurse lead at the BHF, said: “Our heart helpline has never been busier. More people than ever are in desperate need of support – whether they have a heart problem or want to help someone who does.

“It’s concerning that so many people we speak to are facing stressful and often frightening delays to their time-sensitive heart care. Just last month, someone told us they are facing a 72-week wait for heart surgery, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

“We’re also hearing that people are putting off seeking help because they don’t know the symptoms of potentially life-threatening heart and circulatory conditions.

“We are here to help anyone who wants answers during these uncertain times. We’ve got more nurses available to work on our helpline, so we’re ready to support anyone by phone, email or live chat.”

A 22-year-old fitness coach paid tribute to the support she got from the BHF’s heart helpline after she suffered a “widow-maker” heart attack.

Faith Harrison, of Little Minsterly, Shropshire, began feeling unwell after a hockey match in January.

“After the match, I just didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel sick or ill, just not like me. I got in my car to drive home and about 30 minutes in, my arm just went numb and tingly, and my chest went very tight like someone was sitting on it,” she said.

By the time she got to her parents’ house, she was violently sick and rushed to A&E.

She was taken by ambulance to Royal Stoke University Hospital, the nearest heart centre, where medics found that a blood clot was blocking one of her coronary arteries by 90%.

Ms Harrison had been having what is known as a “widow-maker” heart attack for seven hours.

She had an emergency thrombectomy, a procedure to remove a blood clot from an artery.

The damage caused during her heart attack was so severe she now has heart failure, which means her heart does not pump blood around her body effectively.

“It’s been comforting to know the British Heart Foundation is there for me whenever I need it as a resource of support,” she said.

“Their leaflets were a lifeline to me in hospital and I’ve used the heart helpline to learn more about cardiac rehabilitation.”

It comes as researchers from King’s College London called for more to be done to help stroke survivors who suffer from depression.

A new study, published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, found six in 10 stroke survivors will experience depression within 18 years of surviving a stroke.

After looking at data on thousands of stroke survivors from London, the team found almost nine in 10 cases of depression among stroke survivors occur within the first five years – which is when they might benefit most from targeted support.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “While the pandemic inevitably had an impact, hardworking NHS staff across the country are making good progress on the NHS’s elective recovery plan, with the overall waiting list for elective care coming down for the fourth month in a row despite significant pressure on services.

“Boosting capacity for cardiac care remains crucial and innovations like surgical hubs, virtual wards and at-home monitoring devices are helping to increase capacity and speed up treatment for patients, while thousands more people are now being supported to manage high-risk conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol more effectively than before the pandemic, reducing the likelihood of heart attack or stroke.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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