THE number of people waiting more than six weeks for a vital heart scan has risen from just one person in 2020 to almost 3,000 in 2021.

There were 2,791 people waiting for scans in September this year in the NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG area, analysis by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found.

They make up more than half of those waiting for heart scans in the West Midlands where a total of 5,409 people were waiting for heart ultrasounds (known as echocardiograms).

BHF called it a "postcode lottery" for access to echocardiograms in England.

The pandemic is being blamed for the longer waits with the CCG saying they are working urgently to reduce the wait time.

A spokesman from NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG said: “We’re aware of the large number of people waiting for an echocardiogram in Herefordshire and Worcestershire as a result of the pandemic, and are working urgently with our partners to resolve this.

"We are developing plans to increase local diagnostic capacity as well as to start additional clinics at weekends to help improve the situation.”

In England, 64,962 people waited more than six weeks for an echocardiogram, compared to 3,238 people who waited this long at the end of February 2020.

The heart charity warns that widescale disruption and reduced access to these vital tests has created a huge “hidden” backlog of people with heart disease who have not yet made it onto treatment waiting lists.


Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.

“Yet this is only half the story. Without an echocardiogram, doctors can’t see how well the heart is working and if someone needs potentially life saving treatment for heart disease.

“This matters because the long delays we now see for heart imaging tests create a domino effect of disruption to heart care and treatment that ultimately puts lives at risk. This is all the more tragic when effective heart treatments exist.

“The backlog of these vital heart tests must be urgently addressed. We need to see a specific plan for cardiovascular care recovery focused on tackling cardiology vacancies, training more heart specialists, and using new diagnostic hubs to deliver delayed heart diagnosis and care.

"This could make all the difference in preventing more deaths and disability from treatable heart conditions.”