A SCOTTISH patient organisation is calling for change to tackle the “postcode lottery” for access to treatment for a life-shortening heart condition.
Highlighting the regional disparities and impact of the pandemic on access to treatment, Heart Valve Voice have brought report findings to the attention of MSPs.
Impacting the blood flow to the heart, heart valve disease affects 73,000 people in Scotland and is a serious, but treatable, condition.
However, long waiting times are delaying diagnosis, with some patients waiting for up to 7 months to be seen.
This timescale is an important factor, given that, for example, untreated severe aortic stenosis – the most common form of valve disease – alters life expectancy to less than two years.
One example of the imbalance in access to diagnosis in Scotland is the waiting time for an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.
Of the patients awaiting an echocardiogram through NHS Shetland, 79% waited more than a month, which is almost quadruple the statistics for NHS Lothian, where 22.13% waited longer than a month.
Wil Woan, Chief Executive Officer at Heart Valve Voice, said: “Scotland must commit to the same quality of care as patients elsewhere in Europe.
“This guidance urges patients to be seen within a 2-6 week timeframe.
“In some Scottish Health Boards patients are waiting up to 30 weeks to be seen.”
He added: “Long waiting lists have been exacerbated by Covid, but delays in diagnosis and treatment only lead to worse outcomes for the patient – and put undue pressure on other areas of the NHS, like emergency care.
“People must be diagnosed at the earliest opportunity to ensure they can be appropriately treated as quickly as possible and get back to a good symptom free quality of life.”
Findings of the Heart Valve Voice State of the Nation Report into Heart Disease in Scotland demonstrate the need for an urgent review of heart valve centres across the country.
Other recommendations include standardising data on the disease, to clarify how it is being diagnosed, managed and treated in different locations.
Spreading awareness of the signs of the disease has also been suggested, including through targeted education, informing both healthcare professionals and the public.
Additionally, it’s suggested that everybody over the age of 65 should receive routine heart check-ups and that addressing the disease should be prioritised equally with other serious heart conditions.