PATIENTS suffering heart attacks during the coronavirus lockdown stayed away from hospitals with some dying as a result, a new study has found.
In an analysis of more than 50,000 patients who suffered heart attacks and were treated in 99 NHS hospitals in England both before and after lockdown, researchers found the proportion of deaths for patients with a milder form of heart attack jumped during the first month of lockdown.
Those suffering more severe heart attacks actually saw a lower death rate with hospitals keeping their emergency heart services running.
Dr Jianhua Wu, associate professor in biostatistics at the University of Leeds and lead author of the study, said: “It has revealed that although patients were able to get access to high levels of care, the study suggests a lot of very ill people were not seeking emergency treatment and that may have been an unintended consequence of the ‘stay at home’ messaging.”
The research comes as the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed the numbers of deaths in private homes continues to be above the five-year average while deaths in hospitals are lower.
The research could not identify the exact cause of the changes in death rates and it is possible the patients may have had their condition worsened by Covid-19 but the study authors believe delays in seeking help may have played a part.
Chris Gale, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “It was not the case that people were not having heart attacks – they were deciding not to go to hospital. Some were undoubtedly heeding the message to stay at home, others might have been afraid of picking up the virus in hospital or were trying to shield because they had other conditions.”
Adding: “But a heart attack is a medical emergency and if people do not seek help, they die or go on to develop heart failure. We need to make sure people are aware that emergency services continued to operate.”