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Hopes for the next Senedd term – British Heart Foundation Cymru

April 22nd 2021

In our ongoing series of guest articles before the election, Gemma Roberts of British Heart Foundation Cymru argues that recovery of Heart and Circulatory Disease Care needs to remain a priority in Wales

heart balloon

Image from TheVirtualDenise and Pixabay

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives. Immediate and reactive policymaking has been necessary in Wales to meet the challenging demands of the pandemic, which has also highlighted health inequalities and regional variation – feeding the postcode lottery for patients accessing services and treatments.

Heart and circulatory diseases kill one in four people in Wales. Many more people live with these conditions including abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure, and related risk factors like high blood pressure.  As pressure on hospitals from Covid-19 lessens, recovering cardiac services, resuming ‘routine’ heart operations and procedures across the country is vital. When people with heart disease wait longer for treatment, their condition could worsen, which increases their risk of preventable death.

Our ambition to beat heartbreak forever will only succeed with better prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment for people who develop a heart or circulatory condition in their lifetime.

Though Welsh Government’s 2017 Heart Conditions Delivery Plan was ambitious in its aims to improve services and care, the implementation period comes to an end this year. It’s vital that all political parties commit to supporting the recovery of cardiac services with robust and ambitious service delivery planning.

BHF Cymru engaged clinicians, patients, and the public to gather opinions on what the priorities should be for the next Welsh Government. Our findings and recommendations were published in our recent manifesto report.

We learned that the pandemic has further highlighted the importance of the priorities that we set out which are supported by the public and clinical community. If heart and circulatory disease services are to recover, the next Welsh Government must implement these priorities:

  1. Improve detection and support people to manage conditions such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and high cholesterol which often precede heart and circulatory diseases. 

Many people in Wales are living with high risk conditions, putting them at increased risk of heart and circulatory diseases. Improved detection, diagnosis and optimal management of these conditions can help minimise preventable heart and circulatory diseases.

  1. Easy and equitable access to All Wales Cardiac Pathways, which provide patients with the best possible care. 

The development of All Wales Cardiac Pathways is key to ensure no unwarranted variation in care. All patients across Wales should receive the same equitable and safe treatment. Pathways must include all vital aspects of health and care such as: primary care, secondary care, community services, cardiac rehabilitation, psychological support, and end of life care if needed.

  1. Better collection, dissemination and use of health data.

The current lack of joined up, standardised data is a huge barrier to improving the NHS in Wales. Proper data collection helps the NHS to understand what it is doing well and where improvement is needed. All healthcare professionals need access to a range of information and intelligence to support services and this should be delivered through a national cardiac informatics service which links up all health services and has the potential to unlock massive improvements in our NHS.

These three priorities must be implemented equally across Wales. Our manifesto engagement process highlighted that there is far too much variation in services. Ending the postcode lottery must be at the heart of the next Welsh Government’s recovery planning.

BHF Cymru’s Heart and Circulatory Disease Plan for Wales can be read in full at www.bhf.org.uk/walesheartplan and in Welsh at www.bhf.org.uk/cynlluncymru.

Gemma Roberts is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru

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