Some of Scotland’s top heart doctors are calling for a policy change on the alternative treatment offered to patients considered too high-risk for open-heart surgery.
The Scottish Cardiac Society is writing to the Scottish government urging ministers to take action to fund heart valve treatment for patients.
The transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) operation would be offered to patients in which conventional open-heart surgery is not an option.
It would mean patients who are suffering from aortic stenosis, a condition in which the heart’s aortic valve does not open fully and blood flow is restricted, could avoid having their chests opened.
The TAVI procedure involves a replacement valve being fed through a small incision either through the groin or chest into the vascular system and into the heart.
But the society which represents specialist clinicians in Scotland said patients north of the border are not receiving the same access to the procedure as the rest of the UK.
Currently there is no TAVI centre being funded by the NHS in Scotland.
The society said teams at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank have the facilities and expertise but lack the funding.
They have written to the Scottish government urging intervention after figures showed around 20 Scottish patients had been sent to London and Leicester to receive treatment.
In a letter to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon they have highlighted the cost-effectiveness of Scottish health boards offering the procedure.
Professor Keith Oldroyd, a consultant cardiologist in Glasgow, said failing to provide TAVI to patients who are suitable for it cannot be justified.
He said: “This is a highly specialist alternative to surgical valve replacement for people whose aortic heart valve becomes increasingly blocked causing aortic stenosis, which is deeply distressing and debilitating.
“TAVI is a proven technology giving normal lives back to the people who receive it. There is increasing evidence that it is cost-effective in this carefully selected high-risk population.
“There is nothing more upsetting and frustrating for clinicians than to have the skills to give a patient the treatment they need and be denied the opportunity, particularly when it is widely available everywhere else.”