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This three-day virtual study group in February 2021 explored the challenges related to the delays in seeking and gaining access to cardiovascular treatments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this will have upon waiting lists.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in the UK and second-most for women. During the first lockdown from March 2020, elective cardiac procedures and many outpatient consultations were postponed and a substantial number of appointments have not yet been rescheduled. In addition, those who were suffering from heart conditions did not present to their GP or hospital – either because they did not want to impact further on NHS resources, or through concern of being exposed to the virus. Clinicians have been able to report what has been happening with respect to the reduction in emergency cardiac admissions and procedures, as well as quantify the excess deaths from emergency cardiac conditions. They have not quantified the impact on outpatient consultations.

This study group brought together researchers and clinicians to provide further insight into these complex challenges through a variety of mathematical approaches.

Proposed issues explored related to:

1. The overarching state of the delivery of elective cardiovascular procedures and outpatient consultations at the national level, as a result of the pandemic and how this plays out at regional or local (single NHS trust) levels.
2. An exemplar procedure - Aortic Stenosis – for which there is a particularly well-defined data set and for which missed early intervention can lead to particularly adverse outcomes over the course of one or two years.
3. An exemplar condition – chronic heart failure - treatment regimens for which are less well-defined, yet the missed appointments during the pandemic represent a major perturbation to care that may impact on the optimal management of resources within cardiology departments.

Following the event, Plus Magazine interviewed Dr Jess Enright (University of Glasgow) and Dr Ramesh Nadarajah (University of Leeds). Ramesh presented the challenges at the event and Jess was one of the modelers who helped to develop the event. The inspiring podcast can be heard here.