NHS Staﬀ Say Patients Are Dying Waiting For Heart Valve Disease Treatment
June 29 2023
72% of Cath Lab staff say patients are dying as a result of reduced capacity
Severe aortic stenosis has a mortality rate of 50% after two years
Only 4% of staff are confident that capacity will increase in the next 12 months
Across the UK, clinicians face the reality of their patients dying while waiting to be treated. Patients who are being treated are having to wait longer, meaning they are becoming sicker, and require more complex procedures. Clinicians face a constant battle for lab space and bed space, just to be able to perform their life-saving duties.
In conjunction with Heart Valve Voice, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Heart Valve Disease recently surveyed TAVI centres in the UK to better understand capacity issues and unmet need. 125 leading clinicians responded to questions which aimed to understand the day-to-day challenges they face, the consequences of those challenges and what needs to change to improve outcomes.
When asked the top 3 challenges in delivering timely treatment, respondents identified Cath Lab capacity (70%), beds (58%) and workforce (47%). In addition to this, non-elective procedures, which result in longer hospital stays, poorer outcomes and greater costs to the hospital, are exerting huge pressure on staff - with 97% of respondents saying they exert moderate-severe pressure on lists.
93% of respondents think patients ultimately suffer the consequences of these challenges. 72% say that patients are dying while waiting to be treated.
Consultation Cardiologist and UK Lead of Valve for Life, Dr Jonathan Byrne said "Clinicians want change. Patients need change. That change is the only way to stop further loss of life and improve the quality of life for those who are waiting for treatment. Clinicians are clear on what changes can be made to help them perform their work and save lives. This survey paints a picture of what life is like for NHS Cath Lab staff across the UK. Every centre faces the same battle to help their patients’, and staff sadly watch while patients are denied life-saving treatment due to a lack of capacity. A fast track pathway for severe aortic stenosis along with increased, ring-fenced catheter lab capacity to treat the disease is the first step to increase access to this life-saving treatment.”
Heart valve disease affects 1.5 million people in the UK and can be fatal if untreated. A recent study found that there are approximately 300,000 people in the UK living with severe aortic stenosis. If left untreated, 50% of patients with severe aortic stenosis will die within two years.
Kirstie Hamilton-Campbell’s mum, Sue, died of aortic stenosis in 2020 while waiting for a TAVI treatment at just 71 years old. Kirsty said “We lost our mum to a treatable condition because the staff didn’t have the resources or capacity to treat her in time. Knowing that more people are continuing to die from this disease is heartbreaking. My mum was a proud nurse, and she would have been devastated to see what our precious NHS staff are going through just trying to do their jobs.”
Heart Valve Voice Executive Director, Wil Woan, said "The consequences of inaction at this time are a growing burden on the hospital, poor patient outcomes and more patients dying while waiting to be treated for this treatable condition. Challenges have been highlighted, but expert clinicians have offered solutions and have the full support of the patient community. The All-Party Parliamentary Group is listening, and is now writing to Senior NHS decision makers to ask what will be done to help clinicians increase capacity to support growing unmet need and prevent further loss of life.”