Hundreds of patients in Leeds are waiting over six weeks for vital heart scans, says charity
More people are waiting longer for vital heart scans than they did pre-pandemic according to a leading health charity - with over 800 patients in Leeds alone waiting over six weeks.
Analysis of waiting list figures by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shows that in Yorkshire and Humber, 21 times more people than before the pandemic were waiting over six weeks for key scans which diagnose heart disease.
A total of 3,628 people in the region waited more than six weeks for heart ultrasounds - also known as echocardiograms - as of the end of September, compared to 175 people who were waiting this long at the end of February 2020.
Figures for Leeds CCG, shows 831 people had been waiting over six weeks at the end of September - whereas no patients had been waiting this long in February 2020.
Echocardiograms, or echos, are tests which look at the structure of the heart and are used when someone has had a heart attack of if they have heart failure.
They are often used to routinely diagnose congenital heart disease and heart valve problems.
The BHF’s analysis shows that, on average, around 10,000 fewer echo scans are carried out each month than before the pandemic.
The heart charity warns that widescale disruption and reduced access to these vital tests has created a huge “hidden” backlog of people with heart disease who have not yet made it onto treatment waiting lists.
And delaying a heart disease diagnosis increases the likelihood of death or disability, the charity warns.
Dr Sonya Baby-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.
“Yet this is only half the story. Without an echocardiogram, doctors can’t see how well the heart is working and if someone needs potentially life saving treatment for heart disease.
“This matters because the long delays we now see for heart imaging tests create a domino effect of disruption to heart care and treatment that ultimately puts lives at risk. This is all the more tragic when effective heart treatments exist.
“The backlog of these vital heart tests must be urgently addressed.”
She called for a cardiovascular care recovery plan, focusing on tackling cardiology vacancies, training more heart specialists, and using new diagnostic hubs to deliver delayed heart diagnosis and care.
A spokeswoman for NHS Leeds CCG said: "NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group would welcome the opportunity to discuss the data and its sources with the British Heart Foundation.
"Work is underway within the Leeds system to address variations in referrals for echocardiograms and optimise clinical pathways into cardiology, with consideration of the impacts of the pandemic.”
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