SCOTTISH patient organization calls for change to tackle ‘postcode lottery’ for access to treatment for heart disease that is shortening life expectancy.
Highlighting regional disparities and the impact of the pandemic on access to treatment, Heart Valve Voice brought the report’s findings to the attention of MSPs.
Affecting blood flow to the heart, heart valve disease affects 73,000 people in Scotland and is a serious, but treatable disease.
However, long wait times delay diagnosis, with some patients waiting up to 7 months to be seen.
This delay is an important factor, since, for example, severe untreated aortic stenosis – the most common form of valve disease – changes life expectancy to less than two years.
An example of the imbalance in access to diagnosis in Scotland is the wait time for an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.
Among patients waiting for an echocardiogram via NHS Shetland, 79% waited more than a month, which is almost quadruple the statistics from NHS Lothian, where 22.13% waited more than a month.
Wil Woan, Managing Director of Heart Valve Voice, said: “Scotland must be committed to providing the same quality of care as patients elsewhere in Europe.
“This guideline urges patients to be seen within 2-6 weeks.
“In some Scottish health boards, patients wait up to 30 weeks to be seen.”
He added: ‘Long waiting lists have been exacerbated by Covid, but delays in diagnosis and treatment only worsen patient outcomes – and put undue pressure on other areas of the NHS , such as emergency care.
“People need to be diagnosed as early as possible to make sure they can be treated appropriately as quickly as possible and regain a good quality of life without symptoms. “
The findings of the Heart Valve Voice State of the Nation report on heart disease in Scotland demonstrate the need for an urgent review of heart valve centers across the country.
Other recommendations include the standardization of data on the disease, in order to clarify how it is diagnosed, managed and treated in different places.
Awareness of the signs of the disease was also suggested, including through targeted education, educating both healthcare professionals and the public.
Additionally, it is suggested that anyone over the age of 65 should have routine heart exams and disease control should be a priority alongside other serious heart conditions.