Half a million people in the UK have missed out on drugs to prevent strokes and heart attacks during the pandemic, major research shows.
Scientists said the trends could mean at least 13,000 more people suffer cardiovascular events, including 5,700 more heart attacks and strokes.
The British Heart Foundation said it was clear evidence of the damage caused by the “major disruption” to healthcare since the first lockdown.
Independent experts said the findings suggest that the numbers put on pills for blood pressure fell by more than one quarter over the period.
The research, also involving the Universities of Liverpool and Strathclyde found 491,306 fewer people than expected started taking blood pressure lowering medication between March 2020 and the end of July 2021. During the same period, 316,018 fewer people started on statins.
Both types of medication are routinely offered to those at risk of heart disease – one of Britain’s major killers.
Before the pandemic around nine million people were estimated to be on blood pressure medication, with eight million on statins to cut cholesterol; in many cases, patients are prescribed both.
The findings come amid deepening concern about a surge in heart deaths because of struggles to access GP care and long waits for ambulances.
Latest data show more than 21,000 excess heart deaths in the last nine months – a 14 per cent rise on before the pandemic. Meanwhile, average ambulance waits for heart attack and stroke victims last month reached 93 minutes – the worst figure on record.
Last week, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence issued new guidance, suggesting any patient who sought statins should be given them, in a desperate bid to tackle the growing crisis.
On Thursday, heart experts urged NHS