I met with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool to discuss the urgent need to address the crisis in heart care.
Over the past six decades, the UK has made huge strides in saving and improving more lives from heart and circulatory diseases. But even before the pandemic began, progress was stalling. Now in its wake and with unrelenting pressure on NHS services, the BHF worries that we could see a rising tide of cardiovascular disease in Stockport.
Tragically, since the onset of the pandemic, there have been an average of 500 additional deaths a week in England involving cardiovascular disease, which the charity believes is due to several factors, including Covid-19 and ongoing disruption to heart care.
The BHF is urging the Government to prioritise tackling cardiovascular disease. The charity is calling for action on three fronts to stop this crisis in its tracks as part of its Hearts Need More campaign, highlighting that the nation’s hearts need more:
- Protection: better preventing heart disease and stroke by addressing drivers like obesity and smoking;
- Focus: prioritising NHS heart care to minimise the time it takes for people to get help;
- Breakthroughs: supercharging research to unlock future treatments and cures.
At the end of July 2023, over 400,000 people were waiting for time-critical heart care in England alone – a 73% increase from before the pandemic and the highest figure on record. The BHF says that long waits for heart care are dangerous, as they put people at increased risk of disability due to heart failure and premature death.
There are also millions of people across the UK living with conditions that put them at a significant risk of a heart attack or stroke. Up to 8 million people across the UK are estimated to have undiagnosed or uncontrolled high blood pressure, and there are stubbornly high rates of obesity.
I wholeheartedly agree with the BHF that the Government must take comprehensive action to better prevent heart disease and stroke, prioritise NHS heart care, and to power research to find new treatments and cures.