Backlog of vital heart scans could put thousands at risk as the NHS is squeezed by Covid effect

  • The huge Covid backlog in England means that 64,962 people are still waiting to receive heart ultrasounds from the NHS. This is more than six weeks beyond what the NHS targets for patients. 
  • Pre-pandemic waiting list for ‘Distressing Patients’ is 20 times longer that the list of 3,238 people
  • At the end of September, an unprecedented 275 569 patients still waited to receive heart surgery. The backlog is growing. 

Research has shown that heart patients are at risk of dying from the delay in receiving life-saving scans. This could lead to thousands of deaths.

This huge Covid backlog has meant that 64,962 people in England are now waiting more than six weeks to receive heart ultrasounds from the NHS.

Analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), shows that this ‘distressing” waiting list is twenty times longer than the 3,238 pre-pandemic patients.

Echocardiograms can help diagnose, monitor, and treat heart disease.

The enormous Covid backlog means 64,962 patients in England have been waiting longer than the six-week NHS target for heart ultrasounds, known as echocardiograms (stock image)

An enormous Covid backlog in England means that 64,962 patients are still waiting for their echocardiograms. This is a six-week target by the NHS.

They examine the heart structure and the blood vessels nearby and determine which treatment is best.

But spiralling waiting lists for non-Covid care mean patients face waiting months or even years for the crucial checks – causing delays to treatment and potentially leading to death or disability. The BHF discovered that approximately 10,000 echocardiograms were being performed each month, compared to before the pandemic.

According to the latest NHS England statistics, an unprecedented 275,569 people were still waiting for surgery or heart treatment at the end September. The backlog is growing, and the record number continues to rise.

Yesterday’s letter was from 52 members of parliament and peer group to Sajid Javid, Health Secretary. It warned that heart-care delays during the pandemic had already resulted in 5,800 additional deaths.

Meanwhile, a record 275,569 patients were waiting for heart treatment or surgery at the end of September as the backlog continues to grow, latest NHS England figures show

As the waiting list continues to grow, records show that 275,569 people were still in queue for surgery or heart treatment at September’s end.

It stated that heart surgery is not a privilege. The emotional distress of long waits to be diagnosed and treated for conditions such as heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms or coronary heart disease is a factor in the likelihood that someone will become more ill.

Heart and circulatory diseases cause one in four deaths in the UK – 160,000 each year, and about 7.6million Britons live with these diseases. Associate medical director at BHF, Dr Sonya Babu Narayan said that there needs to be a clear plan to restore cardiovascular health. She suggested that we focus on the plight of cardiology specialists and train more. They also need new hubs for delayed care and diagnosis. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, waiting lists have risen to nearly 5 million.

And health chiefs say the backlog will only grow this winter because A&E departments are ‘overwhelmed’ – some hospitals have already cancelled elective care.

Health chiefs say the backlog will only grow this winter because A&E departments are 'overwhelmed' ¿ some hospitals have already cancelled elective care. Pictured: Number of Covid infections yesterday in the UK

Health chiefs say the backlog will only grow this winter because A&E departments are ‘overwhelmed’ – some hospitals have already cancelled elective care. Image: Yesterday’s Covid infection in the UK

Jeremy Hunt, hoping to reduce the backlog in the NHS workforce crisis, will be pressing Mr Javid today. To force Mr Javid to release independent workforce projections once every two years, Mr Hunt will amend the Health and Care Bill.

These will help ministers ensure there are enough doctors and nurses in training to meet future demand – currently, there is no such public data for England.

The Health Foundation Charity projects that an additional 17,000 nurses and 4,000 doctors are required in order to eliminate the backlog.

Social care is also facing severe staffing shortfalls – and health leaders are now calling for a £500 bonus for all 1.5million workers in the sector to stop them taking Christmas jobs with firms such as Amazon.

NHS Providers says there’s a shortage in 100,000 caregivers, which prevents hospitals from freeing patients who want to go. Chris Hopson is the head of NHS Providers. He warned that high-paying bonuses might encourage care workers to leave.

Hoping to tackle the backlog, Jeremy Hunt pictured) will today pile pressure on Mr Javid to fix the NHS staffing crisis

Jeremy Hunt, pictured (hoping to clear the backlog), will press Mr Javid today to resolve the NHS staffing crisis