Tuesday 19th January 2021

The strain COVID-19 has placed on the NHS has been severe, and the news of the Hospitals struggling to cope with the pressures of COVID-19 will likely cause many people concern. However, it is vital that people know that the NHS is still here to help you despite these pressures. If you have a heart emergency and need medical attention, do not hesitate to respond - when your heart says so, just go.

Throughout the COVID-19 response, we have seen a concerning trend where cardiac patients have ignored changes in symptoms, avoided hospitals, or presented too late to benefit from life-saving treatments due to fear of contracting COVID-19 in hospitals or concerns about adding further strain to stretched healthcare services. Across the world, doctors are reporting that those who delay in seeking medical help are in far worse condition when they finally arrive at the hospital and put simply this must end.

Our message is simple: If you're experiencing severe symptoms of heart valve disease or heart attack now is not the time to 'stay home', when your heart says so, just go.

Patients we talk to, who were treated during COVID-19, speak positively about the hospitals who treat them, all providing an insight into the ways hospitals have developed practices to ensure patient safety and maintain some treatment capacity. Be it, Jim, George, Peter or Sue, all of these patients have spoken assuredly about the level of trust they had in their service. As well as the comfort and safety the felt while being treated. You can read their stories here.

December also saw the rollout of mass vaccinations, a significant step forward in our response to COVID-19. However, mass vaccination has also increased pressures on Primary Care providers. Doing so has led to some people not reporting new symptoms or changes in symptoms to their GP for fear of putting more pressure on them.

This cannot happen. If you or anyone you know experiences symptoms of breathlessness, dizziness or fatigue, you should call you GP immediately and ask for a stethoscope check. Early detection of heart valve disease leads to better outcomes. So have confidence that your GP is here to help you.

Ultimately, the impact of our response to this wave of COVID-19 relies on the work of the entire valve disease community. Patients and their friends, families or carers must be able to put their fear of COVID to one side and respond to any deterioration in their own or their loved one's symptoms immediately. Primary Care clinicians must refer patients through to treatment in a timely way, and Secondary Care must maximise treatment capacity by utilising all treatment options available to them. At Heart Valve Voice, we will support the entire valve disease community and ensure that as a conduit to the NHS, we can improve the treatment of valve disease during this wave of COVID-19.