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MPs, Clinicians and Charity Leaders fight inequalities in heart valve treatment

MPs, Clinicians and Charity Leaders fight inequalities in heart valve treatment

Credit: Valve for Life

Valve for Life

6 min read Partner content

Valve for Life is raising awareness of valvular heart disease, facilitating access to new therapies such as TAVI, increasing educational standards and reducing obstacles to therapy, and reducing discrimination in access to care.

Currently, heart valve disease affects 1.5 million[i] people in the UK and is fatal if left untreated.

In 2019 alone, there were up to 450 deaths in the UK as a result of long waiting times for treatment[ii].

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) has been introduced as a less invasive procedure which reduces hospital resources - but access to TAVI is limited with profound geographical inequity.

The Valve for Life initiative is driving change by campaigning for the increased use of transcatheter valve interventions, especially transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) to treat severe aortic stenosis.  

Earlier this month, the new APPG on Heart Valve Disease, MPs, Clinicians and Charity Leaders launched Valve for Life – focusing on the need to reduce waiting times for TAVI; current geographical inequity; and reducing the high numbers of patients dying while awaiting treatment.

At the event policy-makers, healthcare professionals and prominent patient advocates from the heart valve disease community discussed the urgent need to establish a fast-track TAVI pathway for UK heart valve disease patients to tackle these challenges.

Speaking on the success of the event, MP Steve McCabe said: “I am very proud to chair the APPG on Heart Valve Disease and to support the launch of the Valve for Life initiative. Collectively, campaigning to ensure that more patients get access to TAVI will mean better outcomes for patients and less pressure on hospital resources.

"We are campaigning for a fast-track pathway akin to that used in oncology and we have clinical, parliamentarian and patient group support for change.

"From today’s meeting, I am feeling confident that we can make headway with making this a reality within our NHS by 2022.”

“I am very proud to chair the APPG on Heart Valve Disease and to support the launch of the Valve for Life initiative." - Steve McCabe MP

The overall number of TAVI procedures performed in the UK is lower than almost all other European nations.

The UK only performed 78 TAVI procedures per million compared to an average of 141 per million across Europe. Moreover, regional inequalities across the UK are immense; in 39 areas across the UK fewer than 50 TAVIs per million were performed.[iii]

These figures are discouraging not only for patients and their quality of life but also for the NHS and the wider healthcare system.

Currently demand for TAVI in the NHS, outstrips capacity. Among 23 centres surveyed, the average wait for treatment was over 20 weeks.

This period comes on top of the time it takes for patients to be referred to district hospitals following the onset of symptoms and translates into increased mortality.

Research has shown that a six month delay in a TAVI procedure leads to 23% of patients dying on the waiting list and poses a significant costs to the NHS[iv].

Long waiting lists also translate to unnecessary and frequently lengthy emergency hospital admissions, consuming valuable NHS resources at a time when they are under particular pressure.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Valve for Life is raising awareness of valvular heart disease, facilitating access to new therapies such as TAVI, increasing educational standards and reducing obstacles to therapy, and reducing discrimination in access to care.

In particular, the UK VfL team aims to reduce waiting times for treatment through the introduction of a Fast-track Pathway, which has the potential to save hundreds of lives every year across the UK.

By promoting collaboration between Cardiologists and Cardiovascular Surgeons, Valve for Life can improve access, education, and deliver best optimal pathways for heart valve patients.

Led by Consultant Cardiologist Dr Dan Blackman, the UK initiative will begin this year building on the success of the initiative in the two European pilot counties.

Dr Dan Blackman, who treats patients with Heart Valve Disease and is leading the Valve for Life initiative commented, “TAVI allows patients to have valve replacement under local anaesthetic, avoiding open-heart surgery, and with a hospital stay of only two to three days on average, compared to eight days for surgery.

"TAVI also minimises use of pressured hospital resources, not only overall length of hospital stay, but also avoiding any need for use of ventilators or ICU beds, and therefore is ideally suited to the COVID and post-COVID era when pressure on NHS resources is huge, and the desire to avoid prolonged hospital stays is considerable on all sides.

"I’m hopeful from the discussions we’ve had today that we can make access to TAVI faster and fairer across the NHS, and by doing so can prevent many avoidable deaths.”

CEO of Heart Valve Voice, Will Woan has spoken on how this initiative comes at a “crucial time for patients with the twin threats of long waiting lists and complicated hospital stays due to Covid leading to worse outcomes for patients.” However, he remains optimistic about the timing of this launch seeing it as a “chance to transform the treatment of heart valve patients by increasing the uptake of revolutionary procedures.”

Focusing on crucial stakeholder involvement, the Valve for Life launch event chaired by Dr Blackman and Steve McCabe MP was a great success with parliamentarians, healthcare professionals, and representatives from NHS England and Getting it Right First Time in attendance.

Looking to the future, Valve for Life will continue to hold engagements and encourage a wide range of stakeholders to take part to help save lives from heart valve disease.

Find out more about the initiative here.


[ii] Data taken from 23 of the 25 UK TAVI centres. There were 299 deaths in these centres. Extrapolated to all 35 centres that would be a total of 455. However, we do not have the exact figure for all centres, hence this is an estimate

[iii] Clinical Medicine draft 231020

[iv] Data taken from 23 of the 25 UK TAVI centres. There were 299 deaths in these centres. Extrapolated to all 35 centres that would be a total of 455. However, we do not have the exact figure for all centres, hence this is an estimate

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