Another victory in heart campaign

IT'S another victory today for the people of Suffolk in the battle over heart attack care!Health campaigners were marking the latest step forward in the saga after a U-turn in emergency heart attack care was announced.

PEOPLE in Suffolk could today claim another victory in the battle over heart attack care!

Health campaigners were marking the latest step forward in the saga after a U-turn in emergency heart attack care was announced.

NHS bosses had tried to push through plans to treat all the county's urgent victims at specialist primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres outside the county.

But instead of backing their proposals Professor Roger Boyle, the national heart tsar, yesterday ordered that a thorough audit of previously-untested journey times was carried out, because of fears that long delays before treatment would put patients at risk.

He also called on health bosses in the east to start working towards the possibility of creating a specialist heart attack centre at Ipswich Hospital, a move which had previously been resisted.

Now The Evening Star and other campaigners have pledged to push hard so the dream becomes and reality and Suffolk people get the same life-saving standard of care as those elsewhere.

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Prof Boyle's decision means that patients in east Suffolk who suffer the most serious heart attacks will still be given clot-busting drugs in the back of ambulances, a process health bosses wanted to stop. They will then be taken straight to a PPCI centre in Norwich, Papworth, near Cambridgeshire, or Basildon in Essex, bypassing Ipswich Hospital.

This will continue for between three and six months while experts study survival rates and then make a further recommendation.

The changes to the original policy of the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group came after an outcry from patients angry that if they suffered a life-threatening heart attack they would have to be taken outside Suffolk for treatment.

More than 24,000 signatures were collected against the move and because of the huge worry a review was announced with just ten days to go before the original policy had been due to be introduced on June 1.

Following Prof Boyle's verdict, which health bosses have pledged to follow, Suffolk's health scrutiny committee will analyse the new plans on July 20.

Are you pleased with Prof Boyle's verdict? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

Professor Boyle's view

BRITAIN'S heart tsar, Professor Roger Boyle, said he was impressed by the strength of feeling shown by people in Suffolk over their healthcare.

“This has been democracy in action,” he said. “It is really good that people have robust views about what they want.”

Prof Boyle, the national director for heart disease and stroke, led a team of experts who looked in detail at the best way to provide emergency heart attack care in Suffolk.

After speaking to numerous clinicians, from GPs to paramedics, consultants to nurses, as well as patients, politicians and charities, Prof Boyle ordered an audit to establish the best way of caring for patients, and said his ideal solution would be for a specialist heart attack centre to be created in Suffolk.

“I think the numbers justify a centre at Ipswich and that is what I'm encouraging,” he said.

He said that to work towards the goal would take a number of years because Ipswich Hospital had fallen behind in cardiology services and would need to recruit numerous clinicians, as well as built another laboratory.

To become a PPCI emergency centre, Ipswich Hospital would first have to develop the skills to provide elective, non-urgent, angioplasty, and then develop the even more complex skills needed to carry out the urgent treatment.


PROFESSOR Boyle's review into heart attack services in Suffolk was warmly welcomed by campaigners who had feared the county's patients were being put at risk.

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “I'm thrilled about it. It isn't perfect but it is much better than where we were.

“My job is now to carry on the campaign to encourage first an elective angioplasty service at Ipswich, to show the hospital is capable of it.”

Ben Gummer, the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, added: “It is fantastic news. I shows that a concerted local campaign led by the Star and me can produce results.

“I now want to make sure that the future for cardiology services at Ipswich Hospital is the one that has been recommended today.”

Andrew Reed, Ipswich Hospital's chief executive, welcomed Prof Boyle's recommendation that the process of making Ipswich a specialist centre was set in motion.

He said developing the laboratory and skills needed would be a top priority for the hospital, because of the importance of the issue.

“I think it is a big boost for the future of the hospital,” he said.

However Tracy Dowling, director of strategic commissioning at NHS Suffolk, said the primary care trust would need to explore in detail the possibility of working towards creating a specialist centre at Ipswich Hospital before committing itself to the move.

YESTERDAY'S heated meeting at Ipswich's Belstead Brook hotel was the culmination of two months of discussion and disagreement.

Since it first emerged that health bosses wanted to set up specialist primary angioplasty (PPCI) heart attack centres in Norwich, Papworth in Cambridgeshire and Basildon in Essex, but not in Suffolk, health campaigners and patients have been making their concerns clear.

As a result of the outcry, led by The Evening Star, a review was launched and Professor Boyle, the national heart tsar, and his team, investigated in detail concerns over journey times and inequalities expressed by the patients and clinicians.

As yesterday's meeting those involved waited with baited breath for the verdict.

And although Prof Boyle did not demand that a PPCI centre be set up in Ipswich - something he was not empowered to do - he made it clear that he thought it was a viable option that should be the aim for health professionals.

This verdict was greeted warmly from the public, patients and politicians attending the meeting, although many would have liked to have seen even more progress towards a brighter future for Ipswich Hospital.

He also suggested a three to six month audit be carried out, making sure taking patients in east Suffolk outside the county would not put them at risk.

This will mean even more delays before a firm plan for treating heart attack patients in Suffolk is established.

But people attending yesterday's meeting will be happier to know that the proposals which were due to be forced through without informing the public will now be subject to proper scrutiny.

Heart attack debate

Currently emergency heart attack victims are given clot-busting drugs by paramedics or in hospital

The plans would see them instead taken to specialist primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres set up in Norwich, Papworth in Cambridgeshire, and Basildon in Essex

Health bosses at the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group and Strategic Health Authority say primary angioplasty gives people more chance of survival than the drugs

But to be effective any heart attack treatment needs to be given as quickly as possible

In Suffolk patients, politicians and doctors have expressed fears that the long distances people will face for treatment could put them at risk

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