'Ticking timebomb' warning as more heart patients wait for treatment

The accident and emergency departments of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have not had to turn away patients, despite...

A doctor has said heart patients face a "ticking time bomb" as wait times increase in some parts of Suffolk and Essex - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for heart procedures and operations has increased in many parts of Essex and Suffolk - and has been called a "ticking time bomb".

NHS North East Essex CCG, responsible for managing local health services for Colchester and Tendring patients, had a 60% increase in patients waiting for heart treatment, according to the British Heart Foundation.

A total of 101 people were waiting in February 2020 - but that rose to 162 people in February this year, with eight waiting more than a year. 

In Mid Essex, the figures rose 358%, from 67 to 307.

The West Suffolk area had an increase of 23% in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for heart procedures and operations. Sixty patients were waiting for treatment in February 2020 up to 72 this year.

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However, in Ipswich and East Suffolk, the number has fallen from 95 patients in February 2020, to 54 this year - down 43%.

The British Heart Foundation says the devastating disruption to heart disease care caused by the pandemic could put lives at risk for years to come.

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Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and consultant cardiologist, said: "Despite the tireless efforts of NHS staff, the pandemic has caused untold heartbreak, with thousands of extra heart disease and stroke deaths and significant delays to cardiovascular care.

“However, what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg. No part of the system providing care for people with heart and circulatory diseases has been left undamaged - from life saving prevention, detection, treatment, and recovery, to crucial research that could unlock future breakthroughs and cures.

“We face a cardiovascular ticking timebomb for the future that could start to reverse six decades of progress in reducing death rates from heart disease and stroke.

"Averting this disaster will require clear plans that help the NHS to recover, bolster public health, and revive the hard-hit medical research charity sector. Getting this right could protect thousands of lives from heart and circulatory diseases for years to come.”

Nick Hulme, CEO of the East Sufffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said earlier this year it would take a "herculean" effort to get waiting times back to where they werl before the pandemic. 

Chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital Steve Dunn, said that "despite pressure" his trust has seen some wait times fall. 

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