Pandemic could cause thousands of extra strokes and heart attacks [blog]

New think tank research shows that without Government intervention the pandemic could lead to an extra 12,000 heart attacks and strokes in England in the next five years due to loss of routine medical care



By Hemini Bharadia, Marketing Manager at Blood Pressure UK

In March 2021, think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) conducted new research with startling findings: the toll of the pandemic could cause at least 12,000 extra heart attack and strokes in England over the next five years without bold Government intervention.

We believe the stark analysis gives added credence to our call to the Government to make home blood pressure monitors available on prescription to anyone who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure to help save the maximum number of lives from strokes and heart disease.

By getting the nation’s blood pressure under control via home monitoring and medication – especially at a time when access to overwhelmed GPs and other healthcare professionals is restricted during the pandemic – many thousands of lives could be saved from stroke or heart disease. In fact, 10 million deaths per year are attributed to high blood pressure worldwide.

Right now, it is vital that we take the pressure off the health service. As an individual, having your blood pressure checked is the most important step that you can take to reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure. That’s why offering home blood pressure monitors on prescription should be taken seriously by the Government for those most at risk of high blood pressure, in the same way that the NHS already provides glucose monitors on prescription to patients living with diabetes – it allows them to measure their blood sugar and helps reduce the adverse effects of the condition.

Price is a barrier to buying home monitors for many, and often among the people who would benefit most. This includes people from different ethnic groups including Black and Asian who tend to be at higher risk of high blood pressure.

The research was published in a briefing – Without skipping a beat – and the figures show:

  • Almost 80 million fewer in-person GP appointments took place between March and December 2020, compared to 2019.
  • Referrals to cardiovascular disease and diabetes specialists fell dramatically in the first wave of coronavirus. Although referrals have been more resilient during the second wave, they remain a quarter below 2019 levels in December 2020.
  • 470,000 fewer new prescriptions of preventative cardiovascular drugs such as antihypertensives, statins, anticoagulants and oral antidiabetics last year.
  • An estimated 23,000 missed heart failure diagnoses during the pandemic last year
  • A 44 percent drop in echocardiograms in 2020 compared to 2019, which has meant a rise in missed heart failure diagnoses.

Public Health England (2021) report there were over 5,000 more CVD and stroke deaths than expected last year, with half of these attributable to disruptions to normal healthcare services. If the Government does not take urgent action now, then the reality is more lives will be put at risk.

The effects of the pandemic are still unfolding and a reduction in routine medical appointments means countless missed opportunities to diagnose and treat high blood pressure and other common problems such as high cholesterol. These are highly treatable but without diagnosis and treatment they can be catastrophic.

High blood pressure has no symptoms, so the Government must step up now to provide home monitors which have been shown to help prevent the disastrous consequences of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Read the full briefing publication.


The research for Without skipping a beat was funded by Bristol Myers Squib.