The number of heart attacks detected and treated fell by 40 per cent during the Covid-19 pandemic, new research suggests. 

The detailed study of patients presenting to cardiac units in Scotland follows UK data showing deaths from the most common type of attack rose by the same proportion.

The new research shows that the number of patients attending heart services at two units in Scotland with signs of a heart attack fell by more than 50 per cent in the first month of lockdown. 

The numbers seen for alarm bell symptoms – such as chest pain and breathlessness – fell by 53 per cent, in the first month of lockdown, the research shows. 

Similarly the number diagnosed with a heart attack fell by 40 per cent.

The study, published in the online journal Open Heart, researched cardiology services in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow before and after lockdown.

The number of patients referred to cardiology outpatient clinics fell by 80 per cent, and as a result, face-to-face clinics dropped by 93 per cent.  

There was also a significant fall in the number of acute cardiac tests performed, with a 46 per cent reduction in cardiac troponin T blood tests – used to detect heart muscle damage, and an 87 per cent reduction in some types of cardiograms. Meanwhile, US research showed a third fewer strokes treated. 

Heart attack spike

Earlier this month, a major study found deaths from the most common type of heart attack rose by almost 40 per cent during lockdown.

The research prompted warnings that the Government’s “Stay at Home” message may have had a “devastating” impact, in deterring thousands of patients in medical crisis from seeking help. 

Cardiologists said that people were still having as many heart attacks, but were deciding not to go to hospital, either because they were trying to follow “stay home” messages or were afraid of picking up the virus in hospital. 

Back in late April, the Chief Executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens urged members of the public to continue to use the NHS for treatment of serious illness despite their fears:

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