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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Coronavirus / COVID-19

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Help us help you get the cardiac support you need

21/05/2020
Red heart graphic with ECG-type line across it

Staff at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are encouraging people who are experiencing serious heart problems during the COVID-19 pandemic to go to their nearest Emergency Department or dial 999.

Attendances at both the John Radcliffe and Horton General hospital Emergency Departments for heart attacks and other life threatening cardiac conditions dropped by up to 50 percent at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cardiac staff at the Trust are concerned that people are putting their health at risk by not seeking the medical help they need to avoid overburdening services during the outbreak.

We recognise this is a challenging time and people may have anxieties about going to hospital for tests or to see a doctor. However, Cardiac staff would like to reassure people that if you are asked to go to hospital for any appointment then your doctor feels this is the best cause of treatment for you, and measures will be put in place to keep you safe.

The Trust would like to remind people that the Oxford Heart Centre, a regional referral centre of excellence, is still able to treat patients who need their care.

Key services still operating as normal include emergency cardiac surgery/trauma, coronary intervention, the '24/7' heart attack centre, as well as some non-urgent elective procedures, including coronary angioplasty and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI).

Similarly, cardiology services at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury are still providing care for heart scans and cardiac check-ups.

Professor Robin Choudhury, Consultant Cardiologist at the Trust, said: "We have seen a marked drop-off in patients attending the Trust's Emergency Departments with serious heart-related issues. We have also seen that patients who are in need of emergency treatment are delaying seeking help and arriving at hospital later which can have a detrimental effect on their health.

"We are concerned that some people might not be seeking emergency medical help when they probably need it for fear of contracting COVID-19. Patients should not risk their health - and lives - by not seeking the medical support they need. Measures will be put in place to keep you safe.

"Anybody who needs urgent help, including heart problems, should absolutely seek help from the NHS."

Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, GP and Urgent Care Lead at Oxfordshire CCG, said: "I would urge any person with symptoms of a heart attack - new onset central chest pain, feeling tight or heavy, sometimes spreading to the arm or neck, sometimes making you feel sick, sweaty or faint, to seek urgent help by calling 999.

"Heart attacks that are identified and treated early greatly improve the chances of surviving and reduce the impact of long-term complications. Hospitals are the best places to diagnose and treat heart attacks and have the capacity to do so in a safe way."

Although we have had to change our practice during this time, we continue to support patients as we are able. However, in order to protect patients and staff we have:

  • increased the use of telephone and virtual consultations
  • offered more patients appointments in the community
  • opened two diagnostic hubs in Didcot and Banbury Community Hospitals, offering echocardiograms (ECGs) and ambulatory rhythm monitoring (ARM)

When patients are seen face to face, appropriate social distancing is in place, as is appropriate PPE. Patients are asked to self-isolate for seven-14 days prior to any procedures or operations that are still taking place.

If you are an existing cardiac patient who has previously been seen at OUH and need advice from the clinical team, contact the Cardiac team on 01865 572 809 for the John Radcliffe Hospital or 01295 229 765 for the Horton General Hospital.

A major public information campaign was launched at the end of April 2020 to persuade people to contact their GP or 111 if they have urgent care needs, and to attend hospital if they are told they should.

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