Skip navigation
The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Without skipping a beat

Over 120,000 people have now died in the past year from Covid-19. The UK has one of the highest death tolls in the world. It is this country’s greatest loss of life since the second world war.

However, the toll of the pandemic on our health far exceeds deaths caused directly by Covid-19. There have been widespread disruptions to routine and urgent health and care services, as well as the NHS Long Term Plan. As such, the health and care system needs not just to recover from Covid-19, but to ‘build back better’. Ahead of a major report on what this would look like, this briefing considers the challenge in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the UK’s leading cause of death.

There have been 470,000 fewer new prescriptions of preventative cardiovascular medications during the pandemic. This will cause an estimated 12,000 extra heart attacks and strokes in England, in the next five years, without bold government intervention. Fewer prescriptions of preventative medicines are just one of a number of disruptions to cardiovascular care during 2020. The new analysis also shows:

  • An estimated 23,000 missed diagnoses of heart failure during the pandemic. Heart failure has a worse five-year survival rate than most cancers and early diagnosis is the key to better outcomes.
  • Referrals to cardiovascular and diabetes specialists remain a quarter below expected levels.
  • A 44 per cent drop in echocardiograms, a key diagnostic scan for long-term heart disease, compared to 2019.

Each of these threatens to cause more preventable deaths in the years following the pandemic. 

CF have produced a technical annex to the analysis, available here.

The research for this blog was made possible by financial support from Bristol Myers Squib