FEWER people have been admitted to hospital for heart failure over the last year, and the British Heart Foundation is concerned this could mean thousands have gone without care.
Across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West, the number of people hospitalised with heart failure dropped by 20%.
A spokesperson for the charity said in normal circumstances, a fall in hospital admissions might seem like progress, as it could mean people have been getting care outside of hospital.
While some patients may be receiving treatment in the community, the charity fears that others may be missing out, as its Heart Helpline has heard reports from patients who have not been able to access their care.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said he fears some people have “fallen through the cracks and become invisible to the system”.
“As we come out of the pandemic, is the time to focus on resuming and improving care, so people with heart failure are able to have a better quality of life, for longer,” he said.
“To achieve this, every level of the health system needs to be joined up and the best possible information shared to improve health outcomes for people with heart failure.”
He warned that any shift in the digital delivery of care should not “exacerbate health inequalities”.
Between March and June 2020, the charity’s Heart Helpline was contacted 17,530 times, compared to just 7,000 times during the same period the year before.
Barbara Kobson, a senior cardiac nurse at the BHF, supports callers.
She said: “Many people with heart failure rang to tell us that they haven’t been able to access the treatment and care they need and have had appointments cancelled because of the pandemic.
“This is particularly concerning as delayed treatment could mean their condition gets worse.”
Heart failure is when the organ does not pump blood around the body as well as it should.
Although there is no cure, treatments can help control symptoms.
The most common causes of heart failure are a heart attack, high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy.
There are around 920,000 people living with the condition in the UK, and its impact on the NHS is similar to the four most common cancers combined.