Read our latest advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19)


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Arrhythmia and coronavirus: frequently asked questions

Information for patients

Please see our main questions about coronavirus and cardiovascular conditions, along with the below list that relate to cardiac surgery. If your query is not covered below please either email or call us.

The British Heart Foundation coronavirus page is regularly updated and is an excellent source of medically verified advice.

We know that this is a concerning time for many people, especially if you have an existing health problem. Most people with coronavirus (COVID-19) have mild symptoms and make a full recovery. Having a heart and circulatory condition probably doesn't make you any more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. However, if you have a heart or circulatory condition it may mean that you could become more ill if you get coronavirus, which is why it's really important to protect yourself.

  • As always, we remain completely committed to caring for you and your family. If you are worried about your health or feel that your symptoms are getting worse, please let us know so that we can give you the help and treatment you need.
  • If you have been called about, or have an upcoming appointment, we may ask you to see a different doctor or nurse as members of our team are being deployed to help other departments in the hospital.
  • Where appropriate, we may hold appointments over the phone or via a video service.

Together, we will get through this. Everyone at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are dedicated to providing world class care for all our patients.

Frequently asked questions

  • Am I at increased risk?

    It is possible that your heart condition places you at increased risk of complications related to coronavirus (COVID-19). This is likely to be the case for patients with pre-existing heart failure and cardiomyopathy. Other associated medical conditions that are common in heart patients and are associated with an increased risk are diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and chronic lung disease. 

    Common heart rhythm conditions which do not appear to be associated with an increased risk include atrial fibrillation and flutter, supraventricular tachycardia or ectopic beats or palpitations with normal heart function. Having an implanted pacemaker does not increase your risk in the absence of any underlying weakness of the heart muscle.

    If you are at increased risk, you should remain at home and follow government advice on social distancing and self isolation.

  • I have symptoms that are worrying me and I am not sure what to do

    If the symptoms are related to the heart rhythm condition for which we are seeing you, and you need specific clinical advice from our team, please contact us on gst-tr.cardiology@nhs.net or 020 7188 8524 or 020 7188 1073.

    If you have symptoms that could be a medical emergency (such as a heart attack or stroke), dial 999. Even though the NHS is under pressure, we can still treat patients quickly and safely in an emergency. You should always dial 999 immediately if you:

    • have sudden chest pain which spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
    • have sudden chest pain which feels heavy or tight
    • show signs of a stroke, such as your face drooping on one side, are unable to hold both arms up, or have difficulty speaking, have severe difficulty breathing such as gasping for breath, choking, lips turning blue, or not being able to get words out.

    If you are concerned that your symptoms relate to coronavirus, you should use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. To protect yourself from exposure to coronavirus, you should remain at home and follow government advice on social distancing and self isolation.

    Whether or not you have coronavirus symptoms, it is essential to come to hospital if you have a medical emergency, or if your heart symptoms get much worse.

    If the symptoms are related to the condition that are long-standing and you need specific clinical advice, please contact your specialist cardiovascular team.

  • I have been referred to the service but I have not heard anything

    We have received your referral but are currently not scheduling any new patients unless clinically urgent. Your referral information has been reviewed by a doctor and if appropriate, you will be offered a telephone appointment. Our priority is your safety. You will remain on our waiting list and we will be in touch with you in due course with a date for an appointment.

  • When will my follow up appointment be rescheduled?

    At present, the vast majority of outpatient appointments in the heart rhythm service are taking place by telephone. If you do not receive a telephone call from your doctor, it is because after thorough review of your hospital record, you are deemed to be well enough to await either a letter from your doctor or a follow up appointment later in the year. We apologise for not being able to call everyone. The situation is unprecedented and we need to prioritise our calls to those patients where it is medically needed.

  • My booking for an investigation (heart monitor, echocardiogram) has been cancelled. Will it be rescheduled?

    All outstanding investigations have been triaged by the consultants. Those which are deemed essential will continue to be done. Those which can safely be performed at a later date will be rescheduled and you will be notified. Those that are not essential to your care may be cancelled, in which case you will be notified.

  • What happens if I am listed for a procedure?

    All listed procedures have been thoroughly reassessed by the consultant team. All non-essential procedures ie procedures which can be safely deferred, will be performed at a later date after resolution of the COVID-19 crisis. If your procedure is considered urgent, provision is already being made to organise your procedure. This applies to a very small minority of patients in the heart rhythm service. You will be contacted by the administration team to inform you of your cancellation or procedure booking, according to your particular circumstances.

  • Who do I contact if I have a concern about my pacemaker?

    If you have a query, please use your usual mode of access to the pacemaker service. The contact phone number is 020 7401 9249 and the email address is heart.devices@gstt.nhs.uk. There are the details printed on your pacemaker ID card.

  • I am worried that I might have coronavirus (COVID-19)

    Please also bear in mind that the majority of patients, including the majority of patients with cardiovascular conditions, will make a full recovery from coronavirus.

    Do not leave your home if you have coronavirus symptoms:

    ·         a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

    ·        a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

    To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.

    Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online. 

  • When are hospital services going to return to normal?

    Unfortunately, we do not know how long this will last. We understand that this is a concerning time. Providing our patients with the best, and safest, care is essential. But we can assure you that we will continue to work together to ensure that services are safe and effective for our patients.

  • I am a patient and am worried about getting coronavirus. Should I shield myself/self-isolate?

    Coronavirus can make anyone seriously ill. However, some people are at a higher risk and need to take extra steps to avoid becoming unwell. Having a heart and circulatory condition probably doesn't make you any more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. However, if you have a heart or circulatory condition it may mean that you could become more ill if you get coronavirus, which is why it’s really important to protect yourself.

    The NHS website has advice for people who may be at higher risk, including what they can do to protect themselves.

    Even if you are not considered to be at extremely high risk, you should be staying at home apart from essential needs as per current government advice, as you may still be at particularly high risk because of your heart condition. You may be at particularly high risk if you have:

    • heart or circulatory disease and are aged over 70
    • heart or circulatory disease and lung disease or chronic kidney disease
    • angina that restricts your daily life, or means you have to use glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) frequently
    • heart failure, especially if it restricts your daily life or you've been admitted to hospital to treat your heart failure in the past year.
    • heart valve disease that is severe and associated with symptoms, such as regularly feeling breathless, or you have symptoms from your heart valve problem despite medication, or if you are waiting for valve surgery (a heart murmur that does not cause you symptoms doesn't put you at high risk).
  • Should I continue my medication?

    Do not stop any medication unless specifically told to do so by your clinical team. If you are experiencing new symptoms, or are concerned about your medications, please contact your specialist cardiovascular team.

  • My medication is running out and I need a prescription

    If your medication is usually prescribed by your GP, please contact the surgery. We understand that some patients are struggling to get in touch with the GP practices, in which case gst-tr.cardiology@nhs.net or 020 7188 8524 or 020 7188 1073 so we can help if we can.

  • I am unable to get in touch with my usual doctor or nurse and I am worried

    We are really sorry, as we know it is a very stressful time, especially if you can’t speak to the people who know you and your condition best. Our cardiovascular department is a large team, and many of us have (and will be) deployed to help other departments during this unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus situation. Another doctor or nurse may be handling your care and will contact you in the meantime. They will have access to all of the information they need about your care.

  • Should I stop smoking because of coronavirus?

    All of the evidence suggests that smokers are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus. Smoking increases your risk of catching it (because you touch your mouth more frequently when smoking) and because it damages your lungs and general health. If you smoke, please try to stop smoking today.

  • Where can I find more information?

    There are many trusted resources containing information on coronavirus (Covid-19), its symptoms, and ways that you can to protect yourself.

    - NHS website - Symptoms and risk factors for coronavirus (COVID-19)

    - British Heart Foundation - Coronavirus: what it means for you if you have heart or circulatory disease

    - Coronavirus information on Gov.uk

 

Coronavirus

Please visit the main Trust coronavirus (COVID-19) page for more information.