A HEART treatment backlog caused by the Covid-19 crisis has been labelled a "ticking timebomb".

The pressure on NHS services since the pandemic began 15 months ago as seen the waiting list for cardiovascular care grow by 35 per cent in the area covered by Swindon's Clinical Commissioning Group.

Figures revealed by the British Heart Foundation show 609 people were waiting for heart treatment across Swindon, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset in February – up from 452 a year earlier. And 37 people had been waiting for more than 52 weeks. 

The BHF says the disruption could put lives at risk and undo years of progress.
Associate medical director for the charity and consultant cardiologist Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan said: “Despite the tireless efforts of NHS staff, the pandemic has caused untold heartbreak, with thousands of extra heart disease and stroke deaths and significant delays to cardiovascular care.

“However, what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg. No part of the system providing care for people with heart and circulatory diseases has been left undamaged – from lifesaving prevention, detection, treatment, and recovery, to crucial research that could unlock future breakthroughs and cures.

“We face a cardiovascular ticking timebomb for the future that could start to reverse six decades of progress in reducing death rates from heart disease and stroke.

“Averting this disaster will require clear plans that help the NHS to recover, bolster public health, and revive the hard-hit medical research charity sector. 

"Getting this right could protect thousands of lives from heart and circulatory diseases for years to come.”

The warning comes as the charity predicts official figures due this autumn will show a rise in the UK’s heart and circulatory disease death rate for 2020. 

A B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire CCG spokesman said: “We fully understand that many people, all of whom have waited patiently for planned hospital treatment, including cardiovascular surgery, have been indirectly impacted by the lasting knock-on effect that coronavirus has had on everyday NHS services. 

“Tackling backlogs and reducing waiting lists is a key priority, and we are working with all health and care providers to do so, as well as sharing waiting lists between our large hospital providers in Bath, Swindon and Salisbury, so that we are able to utilise all available resource from within the local area and get to people quicker than would have been possible before.”

Great Western Hospital confirmed this week it does not have any patients waiting for cardiology procedures or operations. 

A GWH spokeswoman said: “Whilst we did have to postpone some treatment during the pandemic, so we could care for Covid-19 patients, our team have worked incredibly hard to clear the backlog and every patient who had been waiting was seen by December 2020. 

“The cardiology waiting list is now cleared, including all outpatient appointments, procedures such as the fitting of a pacemaker and operations.

“Any patients now needing treatment for heart conditions are seen within usual timeframes.

“This is testament to the commitment of our staff who have worked hard to treat every patient.”

The hospital is urging anyone with an appointment to attend it. 

The spokeswoman continued: “We have done all we can to make the hospital as safe as possible and the risk to patients is low. If you cannot attend your appointment, please let us know beforehand so we can offer it to another person.”