Patients who are waiting for an echocardiogram (ECG) are facing a "postcode lottery" in Essex, the British Heart Foundation has warned.

ECG waiting lists in the NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group area - covering Uttlesford, Harlow and Epping Forest - are the third-longest in the East of England, government data suggests.

In September, 1,092 patients in the East of England had waited more than six weeks for the heart scan.

A total 3,848 patients in neighbouring Cambridgeshire and Peterborough faced the longest waiting lists in the East.

But the North East Essex area, which contains Colchester, had the shortest lists in the region.

Just 53 patients waiting more than six weeks for an ECG.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF, has warned there is a "postcode lottery" in cardiology care.

She said: "Waiting lists for heart treatments were too long even before the pandemic began, and they are now rising to record levels.

"Without an ECG, doctors can’t see how well the heart is working.

"The backlog of these vital heart tests must be urgently addressed. We need to see a specific plan for cardiovascular care recovery focused on tackling cardiology vacancies, training more heart specialists, and using new diagnostic hubs to deliver delayed heart diagnosis and care.

"This could make all the difference in preventing more deaths and disability from treatable heart conditions."

Before Covid-19 in February 2020, just 15 people waited more than six weeks for their scan in West Essex.

A care provider in West Essex has responded to the BHF's warning.

%image(15410725, type="article-full", alt="Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow has a "range of measures" in place to tackle ECG waiting times, its chief operating officer has said. Picture: Will Durrant")

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our ECG services have been impacted by the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is an issue nationally.

“We have a range of measures in place to reduce the number of patients who are waiting for investigations, including recruiting additional specialist clinicians to review patients on the waiting list."

She said patients are always treated in the order of clinical need.