While the immediate effects of the Coronavirus pandemic are clear, with rising death rates and increasing hospitalisations, the long-term effects will be far reaching across many areas, including cardiovascular disease.

Globally nearly 18.6 million people died of cardiovascular disease in 2019 and, according to the 2021 Statistical Update by the American Heart Association, it is predicted that this will grow exponentially over the next few years as the long-term effects of the pandemic become clear.

Experts believe the virus will continue to impact the rates of cardiovascular disease for years to come, whether it be from a direct result of the virus causing damage to the heart, or that people have delayed seeking care for heart attacks and strokes, which can result in poorer outcomes.

Analysis reveals pressures of providing care in a pandemic

Last year Dr Foster revealed analysis showing evidence of greatly reduced activity in heart care across the board. The analysis showed a drop in elective coronary angiograms and insertion of pacemaker device or defibrillator by 76 per cent and 55 per cent respectively during April and May 2020 combined, with heart attack admissions (acute myocardial infarctions) falling by 27 per cent. Dr Foster warned that trusts would face challenges in having the capacity to provide the care that was needed, alongside reassurance for people with cardiovascular problems that they should seek help if they needed it.

In the UK, concerns have already been raised at the increase of cardiovascular disease since the pandemic began. A rise in excess deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in those aged under 65 has been blamed on delays in people seeking care and reduced access to routine treatments.

Research also found that nearly 20,000 fewer heart operations had been performed by the end of November 2020 in England compared to the same period in 2019 and 96,000 fewer procedures such as stents and balloons.

Trusts must have a clear plan for the future to mitigate growing backlogs of care

Data from November and December 2020 showed that disruption from the first wave had continued to affect care, with large backlogs of non-Covid-19 care storing up greater problems for the future. Even before the third wave of infection increases, the BMA estimated that between April and November 2020 there were 2.57 million less elective procedures and 18 million fewer outpatient attendances.

With the most recent increases in admissions some hospitals have once more been forced to postpone elective procedures and are struggling to provide routine care. While the number of positive Covid-19 cases is now beginning to reduce, hospitalisations will soon begin to decrease too, but such a sustained period of pressure is likely to have a major impact on care for some time to come.

Trusts will need to put measures in place to ensure waiting lists are effectively managed, with a clear view of future demand to mitigate any pressures on the system. Click here to find out how Dr Foster can help trusts to plan future workloads when Covid-19 pressures ease, identifying future pressure points and help to get waiting lists moving as soon as possible.