Around 5,000 heart attack sufferers in England have missed out on lifesaving hospital treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Oxford, working with NHS Digital found that the number of admissions to hospital with heart attacks fell by more than a third (35%) by the end of March.
Admissions with the most serious type of heart attack, caused by a complete blockage of an artery supplying part of the heart, fell by about a quarter.
While rates of admission for heart attacks caused by a partial blockage of blood supply to the heart fell by 42%.
By the end of May, researchers found that admission rates had partially recovered, but remained below expected levels.
In total, by the end of May there had been about 5,000 fewer admissions with heart attack than would be expected since the beginning of the year, suggesting that many patients have missed out on lifesaving treatment.
The study, published today in The Lancet, used data regularly collected by NHS Digital from NHS Hospital Trusts in England to get up-to-date information about admissions to hospital.
Dr Marion Mafham, clinical research fellow at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and lead author of the study said: ‘Our study shows that far fewer people with heart attacks have attended hospital during this pandemic. It is important that anyone with chest pain calls an ambulance immediately, because every minute of delay increases the risk of dying or experiencing serious complications from a heart attack.’
There was a similar pattern of reduced admissions in different demographic groups.
The study found that there was an increase in the proportion of patients receiving procedures to open blocked arteries on the day of admission, and a reduction in the length of stay.
Senior author Professor Colin Baigent, director of the Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit at the University of Oxford, added: ‘Some people may still be worried about going to hospital because they fear encountering the coronavirus. But the truth is that, by delaying or not going to hospital, people with heart attacks are at much greater risk of dying from their heart attack than catching the virus, and the NHS is ready and able to provide excellent cardiological care.’
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