TENS of thousands of Brits are missing out on lifesaving heart scans because of a shortage of NHS staff and scanners, a study reveals.
Official guidelines say all patients with angina-like symptoms, such as chest pain, sweating and nausea, should be given a scan.
But figures suggest at least 41,374 patients – more than one in three – failed to get the checks they were eligible for in England in 2017.
They instead took a less rigorous exercise test, which cannot identify the artery-clogging plaques that cause heart attacks.
The Royal College of Radiologists, which compiled the figures, said some patients face a six month wait for a computed tomography coronary angiography.
Doctors said it is a scandal that a runner with a dodgy knee is more likely to get a scan than patients with a potentially fatal heart problem.
They want more investment in imaging experts and state of the art scanners to ensure all patients with chest pain get the scans.
There were 69,865 CTCA scans performed in England 2017 but 111,239 angina referrals, suggesting a 37 per cent shortfall.
Seemingly normal aches and pains in your legs could be a sign of serious DVT
Fertility watchdog crackdown on clinics ‘enticing desperate women with financial incentives to give eggs away’
This is the best thing to eat before your morning workout
‘SICK MAN OF EUROPE’
Brits’ lag EU for life expectancy gains as UN calls for action on UK’s toxic air
BREEDING OUT ALZ
Scientists find ‘subtle signal’ that Alzheimer’s will eventually be eradicated by natural selection
HERE’S THE SKINNY
What is the South Beach diet, what foods are restricted, is it safe and are there any success stories?
But because CTCA scans cover a range of different investigations, the true number of patients missing out will have been higher.
Dr Giles Roditi, from the British Society of Cardiovascular Imaging, said: “CTCA scans are incredibly good at detecting and ruling out heart disease – almost perfect.
“It is beyond frustrating that we do not have the capacity to provide what should be a routine frontline test for everyone presenting with chest pain.
“Instead, in many hospitals it is easier for a runner with a dodgy knee to get a magnetic resonance scan than it is for a patient on the verge of a heart attack to get a CTCA.
“Deadly cases of heart disease are being missed because we can’t deliver these scans properly across the UK.”
Dr Nicola Strickland, from the RCR, said: “It is remarkably sad that the CTCA technology exists to diagnose life-threatening heart disease before it kills people but patients are being denied access.
“The UK Government is failing to invest in training the radiologist doctors needed to report these scans, as well as the state-of-the-art CT scanners needed to perform them.”
Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s worrying that there isn’t better access to CT scans across the UK, leaving some patients with heart disease without a potentially life-saving diagnosis.
“Research supported by the BHF has shown that when patients with symptoms of angina have a scan as part of their assessment, they are less likely to go on to have a heart attack or die.
“It is essential that these valuable scans are available to people who need them.”
Coronary heart disease kills 180 people in the UK every day.