Associate feature: A new focus on heart disease
Almost three in ten deaths in Scotland are caused by heart and circulatory diseases.
That’s 17,000 people every year. Around 700,000 Scots are living every day with these potentially devastating conditions. So why aren’t they seen as a higher priority?
At British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, we want to highlight the need for change and press for a commitment from politicians across all parties to move heart disease right up the health agenda.
The Scottish Government last published its Heart Disease Improvement Strategy in 2014. But progress in tackling heart disease has been stalling in Scotland in recent years.
While death rates from events like heart attacks have been falling for decades, progress has slowed.
Rates of heart and circulatory diseases in our most deprived areas are still significantly higher than those in the least deprived areas. Deep-rooted inequalities in diagnosis and treatment persist and the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be amplifying these.
Research suggests that people with underlying conditions like coronary heart disease and heart failure are at an increased risk of severe complications from coronavirus, and an increased risk of death.
The Government has committed to spending £117 million on a new cancer strategy for Scotland and £42 million on a strategy targeting Type 2 diabetes. However, just £1 million has been invested in the heart disease strategy since its launch almost seven years ago.
As we approach the Holyrood election in May, BHF Scotland wants to see all political parties commit to making heart disease a higher priority, with a new national heart disease strategy backed by the resources we need to address this urgent issue.
We recently held a virtual hustings attended by representatives from the Scottish Conservative Party, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Liberal Democrat Party and Scottish National Party, to discuss their vision for heart disease care in Scotland beyond the 2021 Holyrood elections.
Heart patients and clinicians are telling us they want a new plan. Our call for a new strategy is backed by the Scottish Cardiac Society, the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow, and Scottish Heart and Arterial Disease Risk Prevention (SHARP).
A Freedom of Information request by BHF Scotland has clearly highlighted the need for action, identifying significant variation in treatment for heart and circulatory diseases across the country.
For instance, the length of time patients are waiting for important diagnostic tests such as echocardiograms varies widely. In some health board areas, almost one in four patients has to wait more than six months for a test, while in other parts of the country the figure is less than one in 50.
A number of health boards could not provide this information at all, making it harder to compare how long people are waiting for diagnosis and subsequent life saving interventions.
This lack of information also highlights the need for improved use and access to data to fully understand the true picture of cardiac care across Scotland.
Around 50 people in Scotland die every day from heart and circulatory diseases. We need to act now, together to change that. And to give hope to the 46,000 people diagnosed with heart failure, which can cause debilitating symptoms but currently has no cure, and to the hundreds of thousands of others who live with conditions like coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy.
We need to know that our healthcare system is delivering for people with heart disease today and is ready for the challenges of tomorrow.
David McColgan is senior policy and public affairs manager at BHF Scotland.
To find out more about BHF Scotland's strategy and to watch a recording of BHF Scotland's manifesto hustings, visit www.bhf.org.uk/ScotHeartPlan
This article was sponsored by BHF Scotland