The Wokingham Paper

95% drop in heart ultrasounds across Berkshire could lead to more deaths warns charity

Heart ultrasounds have dropped by 91% across the Berkshire West area. Picture: Marco Verch via Flickr

HEART ultrasounds fell by 91% during the peak of lockdown, and the number of patients getting tested is now concerning the British Heart Foundation.

Latest NHS England data shows the number of completed echocardiograms fell from 470 in February to only 44 in April across the West Berkshire area.

Echocardiograms, also known as echo tests, are ultrasound scans that help doctors to diagnose and treat a range of heart conditions including heart valve disease, and heart failure.  

And in May, the number of completed echocardiograms was still 85% less than in February for the area. 

The British Heart Foundation has warned that heart patients have been hit doubly hard by the pandemic. 

Long waits for tests like echocardiograms could lead to more deaths from undiagnosed heart conditions. And those living with heart and circulatory disease are more likely to develop complications from Covid-19.

By the end of May, approximately 61% of people referred for an echo had been on the waiting list for six or more weeks, compared to only 5% back in February. 

Now, the heart charity is calling for echocardiograms to be reinstated quickly and safely.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and consultant cardiologist, said: “Delaying echocardiograms could have a devastating knock-on effect on the rest of their care, preventing them from accessing the specialist treatments they may desperately need in time. This could lead to patients becoming sicker as they await care and, ultimately, more deaths. 

“The NHS is now facing a cliff edge as it contends with resuming services and tackling a significant and growing backlog of treatment, all while continuing to fight Covid-19.  

“These challenges are great, but they are not insurmountable. Restoring and maintaining care for patients living with long-term conditions, such as heart and circulatory diseases, must now become a priority.” 

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