Head of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru, Adam Fletcher, explains how the BHF is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are around 340,000 people living with heart and circulatory diseases in Wales, and they are at the heart of our work in the BHF Cymru team. From working with the Welsh NHS to provide better health and care, to raising money to fund new research – our aim is to save and improve lives.

During these challenging times, we know it is more important than ever to put patients, and their needs, first – especially as information to date suggests people with heart and circulatory conditions are at increased risk of severe illness if they develop Covid-19.

That is why we have launched our Patients First programme – the BHF’s number one priority in response to the pandemic. This will ensure we can offer support for people now, while continuing to support our researchers to find the treatments and cures of tomorrow.

We’re here to listen

We have been receiving more than double the usual number of calls and emails to our Heart Helpline, so we have taken steps to expand our service. For example, we have extended our opening hours, which will make it even easier for people to have access to the support they need – whether practical, or emotional.

Anyone can call the BHF to speak to one of our cardiac nurses wherever people are in Wales, we are just a phone call away from helping them and their families.

Supporting everyone in Wales

What’s more, we understand people want access to accurate and relevant resources for their individual circumstances. Whether they need answers about being classified as at increased risk from coronavirus, seek tips for keeping active, or want to access our online cardiac rehabilitation resources, we’ve done our very best to cover all bases with our comprehensive online offering.

Our coronavirus web pages have been visited more than 1.1 million times since early March, and we want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to access them. That is why we’ve developed a coronavirus information and support hub, open to all.

Staying safe also means seeking help

Coronavirus is extremely serious, and it is correct that the country’s efforts are focused on fighting this devastating disease. However, we know medical emergencies don’t stop for a global pandemic, so we are also working with the Welsh Government and NHS to urge everyone to seek emergency medical assistance for symptoms of heart attack, stroke and other heart and circulatory diseases.

In normal circumstances, someone in Wales is admitted to hospital due to a heart attack every 100 minutes. However, early indications are that there has been a drop in admissions of at least 20% since the lockdown began.

We are urging anyone who experiences heart attack symptoms or shortness of breath to seek medical help immediately by calling 999. Leaving a heart attack untreated can be deadly, and the risks posed by delaying getting help are far greater than those posed by the virus.

Working for Wales

These are extraordinary times, and like everyone, we’re carrying on as best as we can by adapting to these highly unusual circumstances. What hasn’t changed is that the BHF will continue to be a place that anyone can turn to for help and guidance, both now and long into the future.

Please be assured that the BHF is here for people in Wales in difficult times, and we always will be. For more information visit www.bhf.org.uk.