Postcode lottery warns charity
Progress made in the fight against heart disease is at risk unless it is made an urgent priority by the Scottish Government, a charity has warned.
A recent Freedom of Information request by BHF Scotland has highlighted how urgently change is needed, with significant variation in treatment for heart and circulatory diseases across the country.
For instance, the length of time patients are waiting for important diagnostic tests such as echocardiograms varied widely. In some health board areas, almost one in four patients are having to wait more than six months for a test, while in other parts of the country the figure is less than one in 50.
A number of health boards could not provide this information, making it harder to compare how long people are waiting for diagnosis and subsequent life saving interventions. This lack of information also highlights the need for improved use and access to data to fully understand the true picture of care across Scotland.
David McColgan, policy and public affairs manager at BHF Scotland, said: “Heart disease is a major cause of ill health and death in Scotland and yet the Scottish Government’s plans to tackle heart disease haven’t been updated since 2014. During this time, there have been a lot of changes in the health care system, not least due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Health inequalities also remain. Rates of heart and circulatory diseases in the most deprived areas of Scotland are significantly higher than those in the least deprived areas. Dealing with these challenges and years of underinvestment means that new national priorities for addressing heart disease in Scotland are needed. That’s why BHF Scotland has been working with the clinical community and heart patients to identify them. As we look forward to the Scottish Elections at Holyrood in May, we are calling on all political parties to commit to work with us to tackle these issues.”
With an ageing population and more people now living longer with multiple health conditions, there is also a need to look at future care and treatments in the community to enable people to live well longer.
Dr David Murdoch, chair of the National Advisory Committee for Heart Disease and a consultant physician and cardiologist, said: “There’s no doubt there has been great success in improving survival rates from acute events like heart attacks in Scotland over recent decades. While this is hugely positive, it also means there are now more people living with heart conditions than ever before. We are working hard to improve access to prevention, efficient diagnosis with modern cardiac imaging and the latest treatments. We also need to make sure that access is equitable, no matter where people live.”
Dr David Northridge, consultant cardiologist and president of the Scottish Cardiac Society, said: “We know that the earlier heart patients can be diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for them and for the NHS as a whole. But the lack of consistent data on cardiac care means we don’t have a true picture of the scale of services and access to them across the country and that is a huge concern and one that we would like to see addressed in any future plan.”