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Press releases

We need a heart disease action plan to end heartbreak for good

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive | British Heart Foundation

3 min read Partner content

The UK is in the grip of a heart care crisis. Our hearts need and deserve more. Comprehensive action is necessary to get heart care back on track and reignite progress in reducing deaths from one of the UK’s biggest killers. The new Government must grasp this opportunity with both hands.

At British Heart Foundation, our core purpose is to save and improve the lives of people living with heart and circulatory diseases, the world’s biggest killers. Thanks to the generosity of the public, and the talent and hard work of our scientific community, research has given us effective drugs and treatments that have helped save hundreds of thousands of lives and allowed friends and families to spend more time together.

But the job is far from done

For 50 years, we saw huge strides in improving outcomes for people living with heart and circulatory diseases, but this progress is now at risk. And heart patients have been let down by short-term and stand-alone initiatives instead of long-term, strategic measures.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the single biggest cause of premature death in the UK. For the first time on record, early heart disease deaths rose for three years in a row between 2019 and 2022. Latest figures show they are at a 14-year high.

And too many people are waiting too long for the heart care they need. The cardiac waiting list in England alone continues to rise to record highs month on month, bucking the national trend. At the end of April 2024, it stood at 419,039, a rise of 80% since before the pandemic.

What’s more, much of this disease burden is preventable.  There is no insurmountable reason why we should not aspire to another 50 years of dramatic progress. 

We must get serious about tackling the biggest causes of heart attacks and strokes, such as poor diet and obesity, continued tobacco smoking and air pollution. This new Government cannot shy away from bold measures to remove these persistent obstacles to a healthier population.

Now is a pivotal moment for change

We are on the cusp of the revolutionary advances in science and technology that could deliver progress. The overlapping and fast-paced growth in the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), data science, biology, physics, and many other disciplines, holds out great promise for heart and circulatory disease if the UK’s research and health systems can fully capitalise on them. 

We welcome Labour’s bold commitment to reduce deaths from heart attack and stroke by 25% over the next decade. But we need to ensure this sentiment will translate into action.

The new Government must have a laser-like focus on improving cardiovascular outcomes, by working with us to better prevent CVD, address the terrifyingly high number of people waiting too long for heart care, and make most of the coming explosion in scientific innovation.

A dedicated heart disease action plan is what’s needed to drive the change required and transform outcomes for people across the UK.

In 10 years’ time, we could be looking back on a pivotal moment in the UK’s return to health.  A heart disease action plan can show us the way.

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