Charity fears over 1,500 Sunderland heart patients could be on waiting list two years on from pandemic

Over 1,500 people in Sunderland could be waiting for life saving heart diagnosis and treatment two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.
Sunderland Royal HospitalSunderland Royal Hospital
Sunderland Royal Hospital

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) say it’s modelling indicates that the number of people waiting for coronary care and diagnosis in the region in March 2022 could be more than double the number on waiting lists before the pandemic began.

It’s figures show that, in February 2020, 849 people in Sunderland were on the cardiology waiting list – but the BHF says its ‘worst case scenario’ prediction is that this could rise to 1,630 by March 2022.

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That represent a 92% increase.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust says its has provided emergency cardiology services “24 hours a day, seven days a week” throughout the pandemic and “are working extremely hard to tackle any backlog of patients and will continue to look at our waiting lists and reassess and re-prioritise patients if necessary.”

The BHF says over 20,000 people in the North East could be waiting for heart treatment by March 2022.

In February 2020, around 10,900 people were on waiting lists.

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It says the forecast is of a “worse case but possible scenario” where the NHS in England doesn’t get enough investment and is under increased pressure from Covid-19 or a bad winter.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF, said: “Even before the pandemic began, waiting lists for vital heart care were far too long. As this report shows, the pandemic has since pushed the NHS towards breaking point, with devastating consequences for people living with heart and circulatory diseases.

“Delay in diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases is not just about improving symptoms, however important that is – it is about saving lives.

He added: “The Government must act now to avoid more lives lost to treatable heart conditions. Addressing the growing heart care backlog is only the start. “We must also see a clear plan, alongside significant and ongoing investment, to build capacity back into the NHS and address the pandemic’s impact on health workers. Getting this right would avoid preventable heartbreak for many families.”

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Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on services across the whole of the NHS. Over the past 12 months our teams have worked tirelessly to restore as many routine services as possible, prioritising those who have waited the longest.

“Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide emergency cardiology services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for patients who need urgent treatment and we continue to have short waiting times for procedures like, angiography and pacing.

“We have introduced virtual appointments to ensure that our patients can be monitored and able to access specialist care remotely, continued to work with our cardiology patients and support them with their nutrition, medication and exercise, and emotional support and our patients also have access to the myHeart app, which provides digital support to patients recovering from cardiac surgery.

“Our teams are working extremely hard to tackle any backlog of patients and we will continue to look at our waiting lists and reassess and re-prioritise patients if necessary.”