Thousands of heart patients could die unnecessarily because they are having to wait up to two years for life-saving scans, research shows.
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.
This ‘distressing’ waiting list is 20 times longer than the pre-pandemic list of 3,238 patients, analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shows.
Echocardiograms are scans that are used to diagnose and monitor heart disease and heart valve problems. They look at the structure of the heart and nearby blood vessels, and are needed to decide the best course of treatment.
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. About 10,000 fewer echocardiograms are being carried out each month than before the pandemic, the BHF found.
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.
Yesterday, a cross-party group of 52 MPs and peers wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning that delays to heart care during the pandemic have already led to 5,800 excess deaths.