Heart attacks and strokes have killed hundreds more under-65s than normal since the start of the Covid crisis, study claims
- Figures showed there were 766 excess deaths between March and July
- Deaths between mid-March and May were 18 per cent higher than usual
- Before the crisis peak (January-March), 31 fewer people than expected died
- Analysis was performed by the British Heart Foundation
- Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan said treatment delays are contributing to the increase
Hundreds of under-65s have been killed by strokes and heart attacks because of the lockdown, a shock report reveals today.
Deaths soared by nearly 800 from March to July, according to the British Heart Foundation. Experts blamed the Government’s stay-at-home guidance, which has discouraged even the desperately ill from seeking medical help.
The death toll is likely to rise with the onset of winter and the resurgence of the pandemic, which could see further swathes of the North put under the highest level of lockdown from as early as today.
Officials recorded almost 2,800 heart attack and stroke deaths among under-65s in March and April – 420 more than usual. And over the next three months the count was 350 higher than expected – a 13 per cent rise on the expected figure.
A higher death toll was also seen among pensioners – with an extra 976 lives lost between March and May, nearly 6 per cent more than normal.
There have been almost 800 excess deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in people aged under 65 since the Covid-19 pandemic began, new research shows
Analysis of figures by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) show that rates of death from the conditions were almost 18 per cent higher than usual during the first peak of the coronavirus crisis between mid-March and May
‘We know there are tragic consequences of the pandemic for patients with heart and circulatory diseases,’ said Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF.
‘These figures further highlight that delays in care are likely contributing to more deaths than we would expect to see otherwise.
‘It’s particularly concerning that we are seeing this trend in people under 65 continue even after the first peak of the pandemic.’
The cardiologist said restoring and maintaining cardiovascular care was vital or patients would suffer avoidable harm.
Doctors have been warning since the start of lockdown that they were seeing fewer patients in hospitals and GP surgeries.
Admissions for common conditions dropped by 173,000 between March and June and the NHS waiting list now stands at 4.2million.
More than 110,000 patients have now been waiting a year for treatment – an almost 100-fold rise since February, the month before lockdown.
Five-thousands heart attack sufferers in England missed out on life-saving hospital treatment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a study claimed in July.
A University of Oxford team used data regularly collected by NHS Digital from hospital trusts in England to get up-to-date information about admissions.
They found admissions for any ‘acute coronary syndrome’ — a sudden reduction of blood to the heart — dropped from a monthly average of 13,075 to 10,118 in March.
They plummeted to 8,739 in April before slightly increasing to 9,756 in May, findings in the Lancet revealed.
Overall between January and May, there had been around 8,000 fewer admissions for acute coronary syndromes than would be expected.
Some 5,000 of these were for heart attacks specifically, which is medically known as a myocardial infarction.
The researchers looked at a certain window, March 23 to March 30, and found hospital admissions for heart attacks fell 35 per cent.
Up to a quarter of people who suffered the most severe heart attack — a complete blockage of an artery — did not seek help, figures suggest.
Admissions are now picking back up again because the coronavirus is fizzling out, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.
But patient confidence is nowhere near pre-Covid levels as Brits still fear catching the coronavirus if they go to hospital.
Experts warned the risk of death from delaying heart attack treatment is higher than picking up Covid-19 at hospital.
The death toll from cardiovascular causes rose by 2,085 in England and Wales between March and June, according to a detailed assessment of death certificates.
Professor Chris Gale, a Leeds University cardiologist, said these deaths ‘should not have happened’.
He added: ‘It is entirely plausible that a number of deaths could have been prevented if people had attended hospital quickly when they began to experience their heart attack or stroke.
‘The sad irony is that heart attack services remained fully operational and continued to deliver high quality care during the peak of the pandemic.’
NHS England figures show the number of echocardiograms carried out was two thirds lower in both April and May 2020 than in February.
The latest figures show that over 116,700 people were still on the waiting list in August.
The British Heart Foundation said that in late March the number of patients attending A&E with a suspected heart attack dropped by 50 per cent and, although numbers have improved, admission levels remain lower than usual.
Dr Babu-Narayan said: ‘Covid-19 has put people with heart and circulatory conditions at greater risk than ever.
‘Despite rising cases of Covid-19, restoring and maintaining planned cardiovascular care must remain a priority.
‘Over time, heart and circulatory problems can become more urgent and delaying this care could risk avoidable harm.’
She added: ‘It’s also vitally important that people don’t let the fear of catching coronavirus put them off seeking medical help.
‘If you think you are having a heart attack or stroke call 999 immediately – every minute matters and prompt treatment saves lives.
‘If you have been waiting for tests or treatment and meanwhile have worsening symptoms or new concerns, get in touch with your healthcare team so that they can reassess your situation.
‘Don’t delay because you think hospitals are too busy – the NHS still has systems in place to safely treat you.’
Professor Nick Linker, NHS national clinical director for heart disease, said: ‘The number of people seeking emergency help for heart problems quickly recovered during the first wave, after some people had initial concerns about coming forward for care.
‘The NHS has continued to offer treatment for urgent and routine heart problems throughout the pandemic and patients have been able to visit their GP so nobody should delay coming forward to get the advice and support they need.’
Cancer Research UK has reported that 350,000 Britons have not had the urgent referrals they needed this year.
It is feared there could be up to 35,000 more cancer deaths within a year as a result of Covid-19.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that excess deaths in England and Wales for many health conditions spiked during March and April.
‘Delayed op has left me fearing for my life’
By Kate Pickles Health Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Sarah Fisher, 49, has seen her urgent heart treatment delayed because of the pandemic
Sarah Fisher was shocked when doctors told her she’d had a heart attack aged just 49.
Five months on, she is still awaiting an operation to help her heart to pump blood properly again.
The stepmother of three was rushed to hospital in May and later told she urgently needed an ICD implantable defibrillator. But surgery has been delayed owing to the pandemic, leaving her fearing for her life.
She said: ‘I am so scared about having another heart attack or event while I wait for the ICD. I’m now at high risk of a life-threatening cardiac arrest and obviously very anxious.
‘I was told I would have had the ICD by now if it wasn’t for the delays caused by Covid-19. However, although I’m on the urgent list for one, my cardiologist can’t give me any idea of when I will get it.’
Mrs Fisher, who is from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, had hoped to have the device fitted over summer but now worries the procedure could be put it on hold indefinitely.
She added: ‘Now that cases of Covid-19 are rising again, I’m just so worried how this might delay everything further. I’m still waiting for an appointment with an ICD specialist to discuss it and I feel like I’m in limbo.
‘I try not to get angry but it’s hard when some people are complaining about not being able to go for a drink and all I want to do is live.’
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