Patients die, waiting for heart valve disease treatment

The UK’s dedicated heart valve disease charity, Heart Valve Voice is calling for senior NHS decision-makers to increase treatment capacity for severe aortic stenosis.


Heart valve disease is a common, serious, but treatable condition that affects 1.5 million people in the UK. The condition is caused by wearing or disease of the heart valve(s), which restricts the flow of blood through the heart. If left untreated, 50 per cent of patients with severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis, the most common type of heart valve disease, will die within two years.

In conjunction with Heart Valve Voice, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Heart Valve Disease recently surveyed 125 leading cardiac clinicians to understand the day-to-day challenges they face, the consequences of those challenges and what needs to change to improve outcomes.

The survey found

  • 72 per cent of respondents say patients are dying as a result of reduced capacity

  • Only four per cent of clinicians were confident capacity will increase in the next 12 months

When asked about the top three challenges in delivering timely treatment, respondents identified catheter lab capacity (70 per cent), beds (58 per cent) and workforce (47 per cent).
In addition, non-elective procedures, which result in longer hospital stays, poorer outcomes and greater costs to the hospital, are exerting huge pressure on staff — with 97 per cent of respondents saying they exert moderate-severe pressure on lists.

Dr Jonathan Byrne, consultant cardiologist and UK lead of Valve for Life, says: “Clinicians want change. Patients need change. That change is the only way to stop further loss of life and improve the quality of life for those who are waiting for treatment. Clinicians are clear on what changes can be made to help them perform their work and save lives. This survey paints a picture of what life is like for the NHS across the UK. Every centre faces the same battle to help their patients, and staff sadly watch while patients are denied life-saving treatment due to a lack of capacity. A fast-track pathway for severe aortic stenosis along with increased, ring-fenced catheter lab capacity to treat the disease is the first step to increase access to this life-saving treatment.”

Now, the charity Heart Valve Voice is calling for senior NHS decision-makers to act quickly and increase access to all heart valve disease treatment options.

Heart Valve Voice executive director, Wil Woan says: “The consequences of inaction at this time are a growing burden on the hospital, poor patient outcomes and more patients dying while waiting to be treated for this treatable condition.

“Challenges have been highlighted, but expert clinicians have offered solutions and have the full support of the patient community. The All-Party Parliamentary Group is listening, and is now writing to senior NHS decision makers to ask what will be done to help clinicians increase capacity to support growing unmet need and prevent further loss of life.”

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Heart Valve Disease, Steve McCabe MP, was diagnosed with heart valve disease in 2012 during a routine check-up at his GP. He went on to receive his life-saving treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

He says: “As someone who has experienced heart valve disease, I know first-hand the importance of receiving timely treatment and how this can return people to a good quality of life, so it is important that this can be provided across the whole country. I am living proof that, with early diagnosis and proper treatment, these conditions aren’t debilitating, and patients can go on to live a full and active life.

“The survey results shine a light on the incredible challenges clinicians are facing and the terrible consequences of those challenges. We want to ensure that all patients have access to timely treatment, and we’ll be working to make sure we increase treatment levels across the country.”

Heart Valve Voice is the UK’s dedicated heart valve disease charity, promoting awareness of heart valve disease and supporting patients during their pathway. If you or anyone you know has been affected by heart valve disease and wants to support the charity, email and help make a difference.

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