Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland has said urgent action is needed to avoid health services facing constant crisis
A charity has warned of an emerging health crisis as Covid-19 cases rise.
Scotland’s largest health charity, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, has issued an urgent call for the Scottish Government to invest in services aimed at keeping people well in their homes – or risk the Covid-19 second wave pushing health services into “a state of constant crisis”.
The charity is asking for a long-term package of support to expand its Hospital to Home services – which help people with chest, heart and stroke conditions including Covid-19 make the transition from hospital and reduces pressures on the NHS by keeping people well in their homes.
The call comes as the latest Scottish Health Survey from The Scottish Government reveals Scotland’s poor health pre- Covid-19:
• General health (reported as good or very good) has reduced since 2009 in adults – down from 77% to 72%. This decreases to 54% in the over 75s.
• 47% of adults are living with long-term conditions, this increases to 73% amongst over 75s.
• Twice as many adults living in the most deprived areas reported angina and/or heart attack or stroke diagnosis (13%) than those living in the least deprived areas (6%).
• In 2019, prevalence of cardiovascular disease among those living in the most deprived quintile was 20% and between 12-16% for those living in the four other quintiles.
The charity fears these figures are a warning sign for how damaging the second wave of Covid-19 will be to people’s long-term health and wellbeing. They warn that unless there is a more joined-up approach between NHS, social care services and charities, the nation’s wellbeing will greatly suffer – putting extreme pressure on health services.
While the charity's income has almost halved due to the pandemic, demand for its Hospital to Home services has doubled. There is a postcode lottery in access to this type of support across the country with the service being a part of the discharge pathway for patients in some NHS boards, but not others.
Jane-Claire Judson, CHSS chief executive, said: “These figures show that even before the virus, there were huge challenges with our nation’s health and wellbeing. Without coordinated action, these challenges are likely to get even worse as the second wave of Covid-19 hits.
“We need coordinated action and support to make sure that the Covid-19 crisis doesn’t push our health services into a permanent state of crisis.
“Our Hospital to Home services help keep people well in their homes, which in turn reduces pressures on the NHS. The problem is our income has almost halved at a time when people – and our NHS – need support like this more than ever.
“People urgently need help right now and we need to do everything to reduce avoidable pressures on our NHS. That’s why we need the Scottish Government to come forward with a package of support that helps make sure every person, in every health board has the support they need to live well at home.
“We have an opportunity to do more to save the nation’s long-term wellbeing and reduce the enormous pressures on the NHS.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our Stroke Improvement Plan is helping deliver important improvements in prevention, treatment and care, with mortality rates decreasing by 35.2% over the last 10 years.
“We want to build on this progress and ensure people who have had a stroke get access to the best possible care as quickly as possible. We are focused on providing that care in acute settings as well as helping people’s long-term recovery in their own communities.
“The Scottish Government expects NHS boards to appropriately plan and deliver high-quality, safe, effective services and to regularly review services to maintain high level of quality and safety that people in Scotland expect and deserve.
“We are continuing to support the Scottish Stroke Improvement Programme inform and drive improvement across stroke care. We remain committed to delivering the commitments set out in the 2019 Programme for Government (PfG), further setting out our commitment for a thrombectomy service in Scotland in this year’s PfG.”
I was struggling emotionally after heart attack
Catriona Drummond, a 52-year-old nurse from Edinburgh, suffered a heart attack in April this year at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
When Catriona returned home from hospital, she referred herself to Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Hospital to Home service by calling the charity’s Advice Line. Catriona has found the support from the Hospital to Home service invaluable to her recovery.
In some parts of the country the service is provided automatically to people when they leave hospital; the charity hopes that by rolling the service out across the country patients like Catriona won’t need to go looking for this vital support.
She said: “I had a heart attack in lockdown, so everything already felt very strange and unusual even before this happened.
“I felt anxious and on edge when I got home. The normal face-to-face services weren’t available, everything was thrown up in the air because of the virus. The usual support wasn’t there.
“I did feel quite isolated and I wasn’t confident about what to do next, so that’s why I phoned Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland.
“I started speaking to Wendy from the Hospital to Home team. Wendy phoned me a couple of times a week for around an hour and really listened to me. We talked through all the questions I had about my heart attack – things like diet, exercise, my new medication and where I should start.
“I was also struggling with the emotional impact of the heart attack too and I was worried about life returning to normal in lockdown. I had a panic attack one day and I realised it was because I was feeling very anxious about going outside because I was at higher risk of becoming ill if I caught Covid-19. Wendy was very supportive and gave me achievable targets to start with, like short walks and how to gradually build these up.
“She gave me strategies to cope with my anxiety and techniques to use if I started to feel panicky. These techniques are useful and can be used in lots of life situations.
“I feel like I can ask her anything – even if it’s a daft question. And I know I could call her at any time if I feel worried. It is so reassuring to know she is there for me.
“The Chest Heart and Stroke Hospital to Home service offered me a listening ear, invaluable practical and emotional support in such difficult times, when other services had to change and were significantly reduced.”