Cardiac imaging experts have warned that deadly heart conditions are being missed as patients are unable to get computed tomography (CT) tests due to a shortage of scanners and radiologists.
It has been reported that at least 56,000 angina patients across the UK missed out on life-saving heart scans last year. New figures estimate tens of thousands of chest pain sufferers were given basic exercise tests last year, instead of recommended computed tomography heart scans to detect or rule out heart disease.
Historically, patients with chest pain are referred to rapid access chest pain clinics to have their heart function assessed by exercise tests despite Cardiac experts arguing that exercise tests are not accurate enough. Experts say that the tests do not rule out underlying causes of angina, such as the plaque that causes fatal heart attacks.
The time that a patient will wait to have a scan will vary depending on where they live. Provisions vary across the UK, with Scotland and Wales doing fewer than 30 per cent of the minimum number of scans.
In 2016 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) supported the experts by stating that all patients with angina-type symptoms should receive a particular type of heart scan – a computed tomography coronary angiography (CTCA). Although the NICE guidelines are aimed at English hospitals, experts at the BSCI and the RCR believe everyone with angina should have a CTCA, regardless of where they live.
Radiologists want to see more investment in cardiac imaging expertise and state-of-the-art CT scanners to ensure all chest pain patients get a potentially life-saving CTCA scan.
Dr Giles Roditi, President of the BSCI, said:
“CTCA scans are incredibly good at detecting and ruling out heart disease, almost perfect. It is beyond frustrating that we do not have the capacity to provide what should be a routine frontline test for everyone presenting with chest pain.”
Dr Nicola Strickland, President of the RCR, added:
“It is remarkably sad that the CTCA technology exists to diagnose life-threatening heart disease before it kills people, but patients are being denied access because the UK Government and devolved administrations are failing to invest in training the radiologist doctors needed to report these scans, as well as the state-of-the-art CT scanners needed to perform them.”
Charlotte Measures, Senior Associate at Medical Accident Group said “I would be interested to talk to anybody that has been affected by the delay and/or failure of the NHS performing a potentially lifesaving CT scan.”
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