According to the British Heart Foundation, nearly 65,000 people were waiting six weeks or more for a heart scan in September, with the charity warning that delaying this check means that patients do not receive the treatment they need soon enough, putting lives at risk. In addition, the British Lung Foundation estimates that roughly 46,000 people have undiagnosed lung disease largely because diagnostic tests were suspended due to the fear it would spread Covid. The Telegraph has the story.
An echo scan is used after a heart attack or heart failure to look at the structure of a patient’s heart and determine what treatment or surgery is needed.
Delays to the scans, resulting in delays to treatment, are putting patients’ lives at risk, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said, as analysis showed that 44% are now waiting six weeks or more, the highest percentage on record since the data was compiled.
Reduced access to healthcare during the Covid crisis has created a “hidden backlog” of people with heart disease who have yet to be added to waiting lists, the charity said, with around 10,000 fewer scans being carried out each month on average. It comes as NHS waiting lists to start treatment reached 5.8 million.
Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, the Associate Medical Director of the BHF, said: “Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.”
She said the delays are “all the more tragic when effective heart treatments exist” and called for an urgent plan to address cardiovascular recovery.
Separately, almost 50,000 people in England are living with undiagnosed lung disease, with a lack of access to GPs and the suspension of tests in the pandemic contributing to a 51% drop in diagnoses.
The British Lung Foundation said diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious lung disease, halved in the last year, with an estimated 46,000 people unknowingly living with the condition.
It said a combination of factors had led to the fall, including the suspension of essential diagnostic breathing tests during Covid due to concerns over the spread of the virus, long waits to see specialists and difficulties getting a GP appointment. More than 1.3 million people in the U.K. have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Sarah Woolnough, the Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the growing number of undiagnosed patients was a “ticking timebomb” for the NHS.
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