Monday 7th December 2020
In recent weeks and months, we have spoken to patients whose heart valve disease treatment have been delayed due to COVID-19. Now, we have begun to publish stories that give the real-life experience of the impact of these delays on individuals.
It is important to note that despite the pressure COVID-19 has placed on the NHS, emergency heart valve disease surgery has never stopped. Patients should feel confident in the NHS and know that if they require care, they will be cared for safely. No one should wait at home if they think they are experiencing a heart emergency. Our message remains clear - if your heart says so, just go.
Despite the efforts of our NHS, many heart valve disease patients have experienced disruptions and delays to treatment. As detailed in my previous statement, it is estimated that the NHS will lose nearly 2700 aortic valve replacement treatments in the 12 months from March 2020 to March 2021. While everyone understands that difficult decisions need to be made, many patients whose treatment has been delayed are now entering their optimal treatment window. Delaying treatments now will lead to worse outcomes and potentially deaths.
However, heart valve disease is treatable. And once treated, patients can return to a good, even better, quality of life. The patients whose treatments are delayed are essential parts of our communities, our workforce and critical contributors to our economy. They are husbands, wives, sons, daughter, mothers and fathers, they are more than just a number on a spreadsheet, and each story is important and should be heard.
We have spoken to many patients over the past few weeks, and there is a sense of anger and frustration in them. However, ultimately they just want to be treated so they can get back to their lives. After speaking to one patient last week I was stunned by the strain the delays to her treatment was placing on her ability to live her life. Simply put, we cannot allow a situation where a brilliant mother has had to place a voluntary protection order on her daughter, because her special needs require a level of care that her mother’s symptoms are restricting her capacity to provide.
Referral to treatment should be 18 weeks. That's now gone out of the window because of COVID, but there are elective non-life-threatening conditions, and then there are conditions like heart valve disease. With valve disease, it is an elective treatment that if left untreated has a reduction in life years. And delays during this time-critical window will lead to more deaths. Valve disease is an elective treatment, but it has urgent consequences if it is not done timely.
I support the Patient Statement recently released on our website, which you can read here, and encourage anyone who has experienced disruptions to heart valve disease treatment to email email@example.com and give your voice to this vital campaign.