As was seen during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a sharp decline in the number of patients admitted to hospitals in England with heart attacks, or heart failure, over recent months.

Heart attacks are medical emergencies and not a problem that can just be brushed aside, to do so risks serious consequences. While the nation was in the midst of the initial lockdown, hospital admissions relating to heart attacks decreased by more than 50% across England. It was reported in November 2020 that there had been an additional 5,000 heart related deaths. Whilst Covid-19 may have played a part in these numbers it does show that while people weren’t necessarily attending hospital they were still suffering with significant health problems. Many of those who did not attend may have done so due to fear of contracting Covid-19 or stayed away in an attempt to not burden a struggling NHS.

Karen Reynolds, Partner within the Clinical Negligence Department at Freeths LLP commented "I have acted for clients in cases where there has been a failure to appropriately diagnose and manage cardiac conditions and unfortunately this had led to unnecessary injury and death. It is important that anyone who has cardiac symptoms receives appropriate care regardless of other pressures as this is a life threatening condition"

Researchers have looked at 66 hospitals as part of a study comparing admission rates before the pandemic together with those during the first and second waves in England. While admissions went down by more than 50% in the first lockdown, they recovered over the summer, then during the second wave they went down again by between 35% and 41% compared to pre-pandemic levels. The findings have been published within the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researcher Prof Chris Gale, from Leeds University, said: "Medical emergencies do not stop in a pandemic. I am afraid that we are seeing a re-run of one of the preventable tragedies of the first wave - people were either too afraid to go to hospital for fear of contracting Covid-19 or were not referred for treatment.”

The third wave of Covid-19 appears to be hitting the NHS harder and the pressures faced by those within it are detailed regularly within the news around us. Whilst we all want to protect the NHS, any symptoms of heart attack or acute heart failure simply must not be ignored.

What is a heart attack? 

Symptoms include:

  • a tightness or crushing pain travelling from the chest into the arms, jaw or neck
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • dizziness

It is also possible for people to suffer with silent heart attacks which can present with more mild symptoms that have the potential to go unnoticed. These may present with the following symptoms:-

  • discomfort in the chest lasting several minutes. This may go away and come back again. It may feel like an uncomfortable pressure rather than a crushing pain as referred to above
  • discomfort in other upper body areas such as arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • breaking into a cold sweat, being lightheaded, feeling and being sick without a known reason why

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.

To learn more

The British Heart Foundation provide information regarding heart conditions and risk factors associated therewith. See their website at https://www.bhf.org.uk

If you are concerned that you or a loved one attended a healthcare professional to discuss symptoms of a suspected heart attack and feel let down by the treatment received, please contact a member of our national team for a free, confidential discussion:-

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham/Manchester/Liverpool) on 0845 274 6830 karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/London/Bristol/Milton Keynes) on 0186 578 1019 carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Nottingham/Leicester/Sheffield/Leeds) on 0845 272 5724 jane.williams@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/

Further information in respect of the BBC News article can be found at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55716860