COVID-19 pandemic had major impact on heart failure patients.

By June Shannon Heart News   |   6th May 2022

Over a third of heart failure patients had an appointment cancelled due to the pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented “significant challenges” for people living with heart failure, according to the State of the Heart: Heart Failure in Ireland report, by Roche Diagnostics and the Irish Heart Foundation.

The report, which analysed data from a first of its kind survey of heart failure patients in Ireland, conducted by Censuswide, found that a third of respondents felt their symptoms had deteriorated during the pandemic.

The survey also revealed that patients experienced difficulties accessing services as a result of the pandemic.

According to the report, “Over a third of patients (34%) with heart failure had an appointment cancelled, with this rising to almost three-quarters (72%) for those over 50. In addition, 42 per cent of survey participants noted having issues regarding picking up prescriptions. This has led to a significant personal cost for some patients. 41 per cent felt their quality of life has declined; a significant majority (69%) say their mental health has been negatively impacted, with this increasing to 84 per cent of those aged 30 – 49 years; and 64 per cent responded saying their finances were negatively impacted during the pandemic as a result of having heart failure.”

The survey also found that the pandemic had impacted people’s confidence to attend the healthcare system with 28 per cent of patients reporting that they had cancelled appointments themselves, and 39 per cent avoided going to the doctor’s altogether, suggesting an increased nervousness in accessing care.

“The pandemic had a major impact on heart failure services,"

Dr Joe Gallagher, GP

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with heart failure has also been seen on the ground by a number of experts working in this area.

According to Dr Joe Gallagher a GP in Gorey Co Wexford and Clinical Lead for Cardiovascular Disease with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), the pandemic has had a major impact on heart failure services and has led to increased waiting lists for services.

“The pandemic had a major impact on heart failure services as staff were redeployed and access to services reduced dramatically. This has lengthened waiting lists that were already too long, he said.

However, Dr Gallagher added that services such as telehealth were extremely useful in the management of heart failure throughout the pandemic.

Dr Gallagher said, “ a service that was really useful during the pandemic in our local area was the heart failure virtual consult, where GPs can discuss heart failure cases with cardiologists in St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin. They can provide advice on treatments and arrange advanced investigations quickly. It means we can often avoid sending patients to the Emergency Department or outpatient department. The service has shown to reduce the need for in-person outpatient attendance by over 80 per cent and allows GPs and heart failure specialists to interact with each other much easier.”

“ They tried to protect themselves by avoiding healthcare services, "

Norma Caples, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in heart failure , Waterford University Hospital

Norma Caples, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in heart failure at Waterford University Hospital, said patients delayed presenting to heart failure clinics because of the pandemic out of a real fear of contracting the virus.

“They tried to protect themselves by avoiding healthcare services. They often stayed away from friends and family also to avoid contracting the virus. Sometimes people living with heart failure might not notice changes in their symptoms that would indicate their heart failure is worsening. Between the fear of attending healthcare services and reduced contact with friends and family, this often led to a delay in presenting with symptoms.”

Dr Joe Gallagher and Norma Caples form part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Faces of Heart Failure Campaign,’ launched to mark Heart Failure Awareness Week 2022 which runs from the 02nd to the 08th of May.

The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the symptoms and risk factors for heart failure.

The Faces of Heart Failure’ campaign also aims to showcase the different people who are living with or caring for people with heart failure.

Faces of Heart Failure

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