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News > New NHS Figures Show “Dangerous Domino Effect” of Pandemic on Progress Made With Strokes and Heart Disease

New NHS Figures Show “Dangerous Domino Effect” of Pandemic on Progress Made With Strokes and Heart Disease

  • First year of the pandemic sees highest number of strokes in a decade, hospital activity down and deaths on the rise in Scotland

New annual reports on heart disease and stroke released today, covering the first year of the pandemic (March 2020 – March 2021), reveal for the first time the scale of harm on people’s health.

Scotland’s largest charity caring for people with heart and stroke conditions, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, say the data proves the “dangerous domino effect” the pandemic has had on people’s wider health and how it has stalled recent progress in tackling stroke and heart disease. They called for lessons to be learned and action taken to better integrate the work of charities, the NHS and social care services to reduce service pressures.

They say such an approach would prevent a permanent state of crisis management that could see many more people’s health impacted over the coming years as the NHS battles with Covid, staff burnout, more complex health needs in the community and an ever growing backlog of tests and procedures.

Public Health Scotland’s Annual Reports on Heart Disease and Stroke shows:

  • Deaths from coronary heart disease are the highest since 2017 – 6,727
  • Deaths from stroke are the highest since 2016 – 2,180
  • The number of strokes has increased to the highest level in a decade to 9,352.
  • Hospital activity is down with:
    • A big drop in discharges for so-called mini strokes (TIAs) down to 3,760 – the lowest number since 2012/13.
    • Hospital discharges for stroke have also decreased to 24,364, down from 24,958 in previous year
    • A sharp drop in hospital discharges for coronary heart disease – 43,535 compared with 51,397 in the previous year

Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said:

“These new reports confirm what we’ve long feared – the initial Covid crisis has created a dangerous domino effect on people’s health that will have serious consequences for years to come.

“We’re seeing some of the recent hard won progress made in tackling stroke and heart disease stall. More families are grieving the loss of a loved one and our services teams are seeing people who have more complex needs because their strokes or heart problems were identified later than they normally would.

“We need to learn from these figures to avoid this becoming a recurring tragedy. Covid and its impacts aren’t going away anytime soon and we need to prepare our health services to cope with surges by preventing pressures on the system. That’s why it’s vital that the Scottish Government works to better integrate health and social care services with charities who can keep people well at home – and prevent them needing A&E or complex hospital treatment.

“By taking action now there’s still a chance that we can help limit some of the damage. If we don’t the NHS will be in a permanent state of crisis management and that will affect hard-working NHS staff and the care we all receive.”

If you’re living with the effects of heart disease and stroke and looking for advice and information, please contact Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0899. You can also text NURSE to 66777 or email

Heather Paterson, 58, lives in Dundee. She had two strokes in December 2019 and was released from hospital in March 2020 as lockdown began.

Left with aphasia – which causes communication difficulties – and partly paralysed down her right-hand side, Heather credits her recovery to the quick medical treatment she received and to the online therapy provided by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland once she was back at home.

Mum of two Heather says: “We know the first two-four hours are critical for stroke patients to get help, especially for thrombolysis. That’s why it’s so important not to ignore any of the signs of stroke. The quicker you can get to hospital, the better chance you have of recovery.

“Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland have done wonderful work for me and people like me all during lockdown and beyond. When nobody else was there for me, their staff and volunteers were always on the end of the phone.

“That support made all the difference to me when I felt very alone and afraid. I want everyone to benefit from the support I got.”

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