SCOTS patients with serious, life-long heart defects are being told hospital appointments as far ahead as 2022 cannot go ahead due to Covid “contingency planning” and backlogs.

Adults with congenital heart disorders who require life-long monitoring have been sent letters by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) stating that scheduled check-ups which involve a range of clinical tests cannot take place due to “expected high demands” on the health service in the coming weeks.

The letters state that patients who were due to attend as out-patients at hospitals including Stobhill or the Glasgow Ambulatory Care Hospital should get in touch if they “think their condition is deteriorating”.

Congenital Heart Disorders (CHD)  are the most common birth defect. There are more than 250,000 adults living with CHD in the UK.

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While outcomes for patients have improved dramatically, they require close monitoring, may have reduced life expectancy and commonly require repeat surgery or interventions as they age. The medical speciality is also facing major shortages of consultants.

One patient said she received an appointment letter for a date in September 2022 and was later told it was cancelled “due to Covid”.

Another  patient who has not been seen this year for her annual check-up due to the pandemic said her September 2021 appointment has now been cancelled, while another said she was still waiting for a date for tests that were cancelled at the start of the year. 

She said: “It’s frustrating that our appointments have been cancelled, as we only get them once per year.”

A spokesman for NHSGGC said there had been no “blanket cancellation” of outpatient appointments, but said some patients may have been switched to telephone or video consultations, while others may be affected by consultant leave. 

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Adults with childhood heart conditions are generally seen annually or bi-annually by specialist cardiologists at the Scottish Adult Congenital Cardiac Service (SACCS) based at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank or attend out-patient clinics in their local area.

A spokeswoman for NHS Golden Jubilee said it has not cancelled any appointments for 2021, but said patients may face delays due to reduced capacity over the course of the pandemic. 

Despite improvements in corrective surgery, hospitals across the UK are facing chronic shortages of congenital cardiologists which can mean patients attending A&e are seen by doctors with little experience of their condition.

A spokeswoman for the Golden Jubilee said two new consultants have been appointed who are due to start in November and January, bolstering the national team of three.

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Fife-born radio presenter Edith Bowman was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, four years before having her second child after complaining of exhaustion after covering the Glastonbury festival.

Heart scans revealed that the DJ has a bicuspid, rather than a tricuspid, aortic valve – a defect that can cause a narrowing of the valve relatively early in life.

A spokesman for NHSGGC said: “Currently there are no blanket service appointment cancellations. Individual appointments may have been cancelled for a number of reasons.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Golden Jubilee said: “Waiting times for outpatient appointments have increased as a result of the reduced capacity during the pandemic period and are subject to change as the situation evolves.

"Appointments will continue to be scheduled based on clinical priority.

“The service has put in place additional capacity for diagnostic sessions to help reduce waiting times and recover the activity lost during the last six months.”