Scottish Parliamentary Roundtable on Healthy Hearts and Healthy Ageing

Ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary election in May, on 15 March Scottish Conservative Deputy Public Health Spokesperson and Parliamentary Health and Sport Committee Member Brian Whittle MSP hosted a virtual roundtable Healthy Hearts, Healthy Ageing: A Heart Valve Disease Plan for Scotland, to discuss the role of cardiovascular health in ensuring healthy ageing.

Featuring leading Scottish cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, gerontological societies, parliamentarians, and patient groups and representatives, the roundtable detailed the impediments to healthy ageing Scotland’s silent epidemic of heart valve disease poses, and highlighted the need to restructure cardiac services and resources to accommodate the needs of Scotland’s ageing population.

Parliamentarians and candidates from across Scotland’s main political parties (Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservatives, and the Scottish National Party), including Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP, quizzed clinicians from Scotland health boards providing specialist heart valve surgery on the issues their clinics face in providing appropriate care and timely treatment to heart valve disease patients. 

Following the concern raised in presentations that Scotland’s heart valve disease epidemic demands long-term national action, Professor Anne Hendry, Deputy Secretary of the British Geriatrics Society, called for party manifestos to recognise the ranging health and social issues Scotland’s elderly population faces, including heart valve disease.

In-line with the British Heart Foundation’s heart disease manifesto for Scotland issued in February, which will inform a Scottish Government action plan on heart disease this year, the roundtable elaborated a series of recommendations on heart valve disease and healthy ageing, distilled in the Healthy Ageing Manifesto circulated with clinicians and parliamentarians after the event. The call to action, key among which is levelling up Scottish elderly patient outcomes with the rest of the UK, is as follows:

  • Retain, retrain and recruit healthcare professionals in Scotland’s cardiac services to meet the healthcare needs of Scotland’s ageing population;
  • Encourage the development of a national heart valve disease management pathway and improve the timely detection of cardiac defects through the routinisation of stethoscope checks;
  • Level up Scottish elderly patient outcomes with the rest of the UK by improving access to medical technology to proactively and curatively treat heart valve disease; and
  • Support the introduction of clinical targets in heart valve disease care to drive clinical improvements and the allocation of appropriate resources.

The need to urgently address issues in heart valve disease care drew cross-party support in the roundtable, and parliamentarians committed to raising the issue in Parliament and parliamentary committee and to considering factoring in concerns raised in the roundtable into party manifestos.