ABOUT 5,000 heart attack victims missed out on lifesaving hospital treatment during the coronavirus pandemic, NHS figures suggest.
The failure to seek care will have led to many people dying in pain at home or shortened life expectancy, experts say.
It is thought patients were too scared to attend hospital for fear of catching coronavirus or did not want to burden staff.
The Government’s message to “protect the NHS” is likely to have put some off.
Hospital admissions for heart attacks fell by 35 per cent by the end of March, Oxford University researchers found.
Study leader Dr Marion Mafham said: “Our study shows that far fewer people with heart attacks have attended hospital during this pandemic.
“It is important that anyone with chest pain calls an ambulance immediately, because every minute of delay increases the risk of dying or experiencing serious complications from a heart attack.”
Colleague Prof Colin Baigent said: “Some people may still be worried about going to hospital because they fear encountering the coronavirus.
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“But the truth is that, by delaying or not going to hospital, people with heart attacks are at much greater risk of dying from their heart attack than catching the virus, and the NHS is ready and able to provide excellent cardiological care.”
Cardiologist Prof Tim Chico, who was not involved in the study, said: “The message to ‘protect the NHS’ can all too easily lead to patients trying to avoid seeking help, even for potentially life-threatening problems such as a heart attack."
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, from the British Heart Foundation, said the charity was “extremely concerned” by the figures.
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