Heart attack care in Suffolk

July 8th 2009

On Monday afternoon I attended the meeting where Professor Boyle, the Government’s “Heart Tsar”, was reporting back on the decision to transport “STEMI” heart attack patients to Papworth hospital in Cambridge or the Norfolk and Norwich hospital for “PPCI” treatment. Although the treatment increases survival rates, there has been a huge amount of concern about transport times, especially from the rural coastal area of Suffolk in winter.

 As a result of this public concern Professor Boyle has guaranteed that travel times will be studied over the next few months and that people can opt for the current service rather than be transported to Papworth or Norwich. They can’t be specific about how long this study will take as they need enough patients from the more rural areas to get a true picture. Currently there are 2-3 cases per week inEast Suffolk and of course they have no idea where they will be from.

“STEMI” heart attacks account for 25% of all heart attacks. The current treatment of clot busting drugs or thrombolysis, can be administered by paramedics prior to arrival at hospital. The new service “PPCI” involves the insertion of a stent and leads to improved survival rates for patients. However this treatment must be carried out at specialist centres where they have both the equipment and enough trained cardiologists to provide around the clock treatment. The recommendation is also that PPCI is carried out within 150 minutes of the heart attack. 

Ipswich hospital currently has neither the equipment nor the number of trained cardiologists (minimum of 6) to provide a round the clock service. This poses a number of questions including:

  1. Can this service be provided in the future at Ipswich hospital and how long would it take to establish?
  2. Does it diminish the current service for heart attack patients?
  3. Will this further deplete services at Ipswich Hospital?

On the first question it would take 3 to 4 years to establish a service. What they can establish, if there is the will to do so, is an elective angioplasty service in the interim. For this they would need a minimum of three cardiologists. They also need to carry out a minimum of 400 procedures each year to ensure professional expertise. A member of the audience suggested linking up with Colchester hospital to increase the number of patients treated at Ipswich.

On the second point they were careful to stress that heart attack care at Ipswich hospital would not be diminished, which goes some way to answering the third question.

 What this whole debate has thrown up is that people in East Suffolk are fearful of losing even more services from IpswichHospital.

 What happens next:

NHS Suffolk will host a number of open sessions for members of the public. I asked when these would be and where would they be publicised and they said that they should have the dates by the end of this week and that adverts will appear in the local press. Also every household will receive a leaflet explaining the changes.

They recognise that the consultation process was appalling. This has not been helped by the forum of health scrutiny chairs from across the region, which met in March, and decided that no consultation was needed on the proposed three centres of excellence – none of which, of course, are in Suffolk! We will no doubt discuss this further at the Health Scrutiny meeting on July 20th. We will also discuss the decision to move immediately to the PPCI model for West Suffolk hospital.

This article in the EADT gives further details:


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