Thirty times more people waiting over six months for cardiac surgery in NI than year ago
PEOPLE will die as waiting lists for heart surgery and referrals grow longer, a charity has warned.
Thirty times more people are waiting over six months for cardiac surgery in the north than a year ago, according to new research.
The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) said the latest figures show the "seismic impact" of the Covid-19 pandemic on potentially life-saving surgery for heart patients as services have been "pushed to the limit".
Surgeries were cancelled and many cardiology services paused to deal with the impact of Covid-19, causing long waits for referrals, surgery and treatment, which the charity said can lead to unnecessary deaths and poorer quality of life.
It found that at the end of 2020 there were 30 times as many people waiting over six months for cardiac surgery compared to the same period in 2019.
Between June and December 2020, the number waiting over six months for cardiac surgery doubled, while those waiting for cardiac surgery grew by 40 per cent between the end of 2019 and end of 2020.
Fearghal McKinney from BHF NI said: "Heart operations are not something that people can easily go without - delaying them can cost lives.
"The significant backlog will keep growing as there are also significant numbers of people waiting for cardiology referrals and many of these are likely to require surgery.
"That waiting list will only get longer and make no mistake, as this goes on people will die on that waiting list or will have died already.
"Many of them are facing anxiety and a worsening quality of life as time goes by. It is important that if your symptoms are worsening whilst you wait that you seek medical advice."
Among those waiting is Lisburn woman Linda Murray.
She was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse eight years ago, but in January 2020 the damage had worsened and she was referred for valve repair surgery.
"The condition worsened over the years and just before the pandemic hit, I was told it would require open heart surgery on the valve," she said.
The 62-year-old now fears the damage to her valve in that time may mean she needs a full valve replacement rather than repair.
"The condition means I am incredibly tired.
"It is now at the stage where we won’t know if I will need a full valve replacement or repair until the surgeon begins operating. My cardiologist and hospital staff have been incredible but it’s the system that’s the problem."