Deaths from heart disease have shot up by nearly 5,000 since the start of the pandemic, new figures show.
Doctors have repeatedly warned that patients have stayed away from hospital throughout the crisis, for fear of being exposed to Covid and to avoid putting additional pressure on the NHS.
Delays to surgery and routine heart care have also taken a toll.
The British Heart Foundation calculates there have been 4,622 ‘excess deaths’ from heart and circulatory diseases between the start of the pandemic and mid-October.
As the Covid-19 second wave sets in, the charity has urged people to not put off seeking care.
The British Heart Foundation calculates there have been 4,622 ‘excess deaths’ from heart and circulatory diseases between the start of the pandemic and mid-October
It has previously called for action after noticing that hundreds of relatively younger adults have also been dying in higher numbers than expected for heart problems.
The charity calculated that in the under-65s alone there have been more than 800 additional deaths.
As the nation went into lockdown in late March there was a significant fall in people seeking help for suspected heart attacks.
The number of people attending A&E with a suspected heart attack dropped by 50 per cent in March.
Numbers have since risen again but the toll will be felt for some time to come.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said last night: ‘We know that patients with heart and circulatory disease have been dying from it in numbers in excess of what we would expect since the beginning of the pandemic.
‘And this is on top of also being at an increased risk of severe Covid-19 resulting in deaths.
‘From the onset of the pandemic to October 16 there had been 4,622 excess deaths in England.
‘I feel every death is a tragedy, no matter how old you are and what your circumstance, whether it’s from Covid-19 or not.
‘Equally, going forward, we must learn lessons from this pandemic and it seems that it’s very important that we do maintain access to cardiovascular care despite the winter surge and coronavirus resurgence so that we can, wherever possible, reduce these excess deaths.’
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said last night: ‘We know that patients with heart and circulatory disease have been dying from it in numbers in excess of what we would expect since the beginning of the pandemic’
Dr Babu-Narayan cited a YouGov poll which found that among patients who had noticed a worsening of their health conditions, 56 per cent didn’t seek help for it because they did not want to put pressure on the health service.
She said: ‘I wouldn’t want people to be so worried about protecting the NHS that the patient doesn’t get protection themselves.
‘If you have a heart condition remember the NHS is open for you. And it’s here to protect you, rather than you having to worry about protecting it.
‘The NHS is ready for you if you have an emergency or life threatening illness.
‘So if you think you’re having a heart attack or you think you could be having a stroke – it’s vital that you still call 999 and go to the hospital. Every minute matters in terms of saving your life and avoiding disability from those conditions.
‘For example if you’re getting more chest pain when you do things and that’s lasting for longer or you’re getting worse breathlessness when you do things, it’s really important you make sure you seek medical advice, because your situation may need to be reprioritised.
Doctors have repeatedly warned that patients have stayed away from hospital throughout the crisis, for fear of being exposed to Covid and to avoid putting additional pressure on the NHS
‘And you may need to have your treatment brought forward or your investigation brought forward.
‘If you are offered your regular check-up or appointment, don’t delay or reschedule because that could be a really important test for you to attend, and in no way is the lockdown intended to mean that you shouldn’t attend your hospital appointment when invited.’
Dr Nick Linker, national clinical director for heart disease for the NHS in England, said: ‘The NHS continued to offer treatment for urgent and routine heart problems throughout the pandemic and the number of people seeking emergency care quickly rebounded during the first wave, after some people had initial concerns about coming forward for care.
‘Going into the second wave, hospitals are continuing to redesign services so that care can go ahead safely, and our message remains the same: if you have symptoms, help us help you by coming forward so we can get you the care you need.’