BSE NSTEP | Impact of COVID-19 on UK stress echocardiography practice

The British Society of Echocardiography (BSE) is delighted to have collaborated with the EVAREST study on the publication of a new Echo Research and Practice article on the impact of COVID-19 on UK stress echocardiography practice.

The research team studied whether COVID-19 and associated healthcare regulations had impacted ability to deliver stress echocardiography in the NHS. Stress echocardiography is one of the most widely used tests to assess cardiac function and determine whether a patient has evidence of coronary ischaemia. Therefore, continued delivery of stress echocardiography during the pandemic was essential to deliver effective healthcare within the NHS.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic placed unprecedented strain on healthcare services across the world, with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) experiencing its greatest challenge in 70 years of existence. The disease spread rapidly across the UK with now over 125,000 COVID-19 related deaths recorded in the country. 

NHS activity restarted following the first wave of COVID-19 infections, but with new regulations to minimise patient contact with healthcare professionals and reduce risk of transmission via aerosol generating procedures.

The ‘Impact of COVID-19 on UK Stress Echocardiography Services’ survey was sent to the research teams from the 31 NHS hospitals participating in the EVAREST study ( ID: NCT03674255) in both July and November 2020. The survey was developed as a consensus document in collaboration with the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE). The number of stress echocardiography studies were compared to historical data from the same centres based on the data collected within the EVAREST study, as well as comparing the results between the two waves of COVID-19.

While the number of studies performed did fall during the first wave of infections, there has been no long-lasting impact on ability to deliver stress echocardiography within the NHS as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the second wave most services were operating at normal rates and services had fully adapted to take account of requirements to reduce risk of exposure through use of alternative stressors and PPE.

Lead author Mr Cameron Dockerill, Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility (CCRF), University of Oxford, now a PhD student at King’s College London, said “This paper highlights the resilience of stress echocardiography staff, who were able to quickly adapt to new requirements and protective measures following the first wave of the pandemic. Restoring stress echocardiography services to above and beyond the pre-pandemic rates, during the second wave, was a fantastic achievement."

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