The Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) reports this week on the unusually high number of heart attacks experienced in England since the end of May 2021 (see above). The data come from a weekly report from the ten ambulance trusts in England and show the number of emergency calls for cardiac or respiratory arrests. (The two are grouped together, HART explains, because it is not always clear whether a cardiac arrest was precipitated by a respiratory arrest.)
The two most significant points, HART says, are the dramatic rise in arrest calls since spring 2021 and the significant increase in the baseline (the dotted line) in the same period.
The baseline, of course, is crucial for establishing what is ‘normal’ and ‘excess’, yet the reports give no explanation as to why the baseline has risen so dramatically. As HART points out: “The expected number of daily arrest calls rose suddenly in March by about 50 per day – around 30% higher than before.” Why did the ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ number of arrest calls suddenly rise so dramatically in spring 2021? We should be told. It doesn’t appear that it would be explained simply by the inclusion of the 2020 data in the baseline.
It is doubly odd, HART notes, because there is no change in the baseline for other conditions such as overdoses, falls or injuries. The only other condition whose baseline has shifted significantly is the related category of “chest pain”, which, HART says, “has risen from a steady 1,600 per day to 2,000”. Nonetheless, the actual number of calls for chest pain has stayed around the previous baseline of 1,600, meaning the increased baseline makes it look like the figures are now running below average.
HART notes that prior to 2021 the peak daily calls were around 400 arrest calls in a day. However, during winter 2021-22 the peak surged beyond an unprecedented 500 in a single day (this isn’t shown in the chart above because the figures are a seven-day rolling average).
Using the 2019-20 baseline the number of arrest calls since May 2021 has been a huge 30% above expected levels, amounting to around 27,800 additional arrest calls – over 500 extra every day on average. This is significant because an estimated 90-97% of these people will have died as a result. A further comparison is that 2021 figures are up 20% on 2019, while 2020 figures are only up 6% on 2019.
Looking at excess deaths, it appears that a step change occurs around the same time, in late May 2021 (see below).