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Gallery/Video: Opening of Ipswich Hospital’s heart centre is crowning glory of hard-fought Have a Heart campaign victory

18:06 19 March 2014

The Countess of Wessex officially opens the new Heart Centre at Ipswich Hospital. 
Inside the Heartbeat Suite

The Countess of Wessex officially opens the new Heart Centre at Ipswich Hospital. Inside the Heartbeat Suite

After three years of determined campaigning, the town’s state-of-the-art cardiac centre was today officially unveiled by Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex.

The Have a Heart campaign

The Star first launched the Have a Heart appeal in 2009 after we uncovered controver-sial plans to establish three regional cardiac centres – at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridgeshire, and Basildon in Essex.

The move meant patients needing emergency heart care as well as routine procedures were forced to travel out of the county for


Backed by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, Heartbeat East Suffolk and readers who raised around £30,000, the Star secured a review of the proposals by heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle.

In December 2010 he recommended that Ipswich Hospital should have a non-emergency heart centre but not the emer-gency unit.

In February the Star revealed the Department of Health had granted the hospital £5million to pay for the building of the new centre after NHS Midlands and East put in a bid for the funding.

The new centre at the Heath Road trust allows patients who need planned coronary angioplasty – known as percutaneous coro-nary intervention (PCI) – to be treated in Ipswich.

The operation involves narrowed arteries being widened in patients who are at risk of suffering a heart attack.

Emergency patients will continue to receive care at one of the three regional centres for primary percuta-neous coronary intervention (PPCI).

The new centre is situated in what was formerly the Foxhall Unit and the first patients were treated in June last year.

The opening was the crowning glory of a hard-fought victory to keep elective heart services at Ipswich Hospital by the Ipswich Star’s Have a Heart campaign, Heartbeat East Suffolk and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer.

Sophie Wessex toured the unit, greeting dignitaries including Ipswich mayor Hamil Clarke, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore and Mr Gummer, as well as heart specialists, nurses and patients, before unveiling a plaque in honour of the momentous occasion.

Ipswich Hospital’s chief executive Nick Hulme led Sophie Wessex to the Ipswich Heart Centre where she was met by lead consultant Dr Duncan McNab who explained the importance of the heart centre, the procedures carried out and the number of people it is anticipated will be treated.

Mr Hulme said: “Welcome, Your Royal Highness, to Ipswich Hospital and to the wonderful heart centre that’s been developed.

“The heart centre is a prime example of what we can do together and I would like to thank everyone for their work to secure this unit.

“As you get to a certain age you start to invest in certain parts of your health and the next will be the geriatric ward!”

Speaking before unveiling the plaque, Sophie Wessex said: “Congratulations to all of you.

“What an impressive department you have and I have no doubt that the many patients who will be undergoing procedures here will be hugely and eternally grateful.

“The attention to detail with mood lighting and music says it all.”

The heart centre was funded by the Department of Health after the Star’s three-year Have a Heart campaign supported Heartbeat East Suffolk and Mr Gummer.

Readers helped raise more than £30,000 to help furnish the unit and make it a more comfortable environment for patients.

Heartbeat East Suffolk made a £78,000 donation to the cardiac department at Ipswich Hospital which was used to pay for mood lighting in the two new theatres with calming music, equipment to provide video link between Ipswich and Papworth hospitals and equipment to allow information from a Holter Monitor, which records heart rhythms while worn by the patient to be sent direct to a Pathfinder within the cardiac unit.

Mike Farthing, treasurer of Heartbeat East Suffolk, said: “We are very proud and pleased to have been able to help with the premises here. We put quite a lot of money into it and the mood lighting was paid for by our 1,500 members. We spent just under £80,000 with the hospital and it’s money well spent.”

The Countess was also presented with a posy by five-year-old Phoebe Rigen, whose mother Penny is a nurse in the heart centre.

Mr Gummer hailed the occasion as a “magnificent day” for the town.

“It’s a great day because of we have this amazing new service officially opened,” he added. “The visit was fantastic and for the campaign, which was backed by the Star, Heartbeat East Suffolk and myself and by people across the town, and this is vindication and proof that if you are willing to fight for something, you can win.

“Everyone needs to give themselves a collective pat on the back for a job well done.”


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