Crashes mean danger for heart patients

SUFFOLK: Long delays caused by crashes could spell disaster for emergency heart attack patients, campaigners warn today.There have been a number of collisions on the main roads in the county in the last few weeks, prompting fears that there will be further hold-ups for people being taken outside Suffolk for treatment.

SUFFOLK: Long delays caused by crashes could spell disaster for emergency heart attack patients, campaigners warn today.

There have been a number of collisions on the main roads in the county in the last few weeks, prompting fears that there will be further hold-ups for people being taken outside Suffolk for treatment.

This week two accidents have blocked the A140, the main arterial road which links Ipswich with the Norwich - one of the specialist centres which emergency heart attack patients from the county are being forced to travel to.

One of the crashes blocked the road in both directions for four hours.

And Marcus Bailey, general manager for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk, admitted that patients tend to be taken to PPCI centres in Basildon and Papworth because the roads are better.

On Tuesday a five-car collision in Brockford Green, near Mendlesham, closed the road for two hours and on Thursday another serious crash caused the road to be closed for four hours.

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Prue Rush, health campaigner, said: “We have always said that the A140 and A12 are very heavily congested roads. “The main thing is if there is an accident, the whole road is closed. Any delay increases the risk of further damage to the heart and increases the risk of a poorer outcome should the patient need urgent care.”

Ben Gummer, prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in Ipswich, said: “These frequent crashes confirm what most people in Ipswich know already which is that it is impossible to operate a full emergency service if you have to take people to Norwich or Cambridge.”

Mr Bailey said the ambulance service is notified by police about any road closures so they can contact crews.

He added: “With the PPCI, we have tended to go to Basildon and Norwich as the roads [A12 and A14] tend to be better than predicted.

“The worst case scenario would be we take the back roads and this would only add another 10/15 minutes on. The last resort, if clinically appropriate, is for the ambulance to request help from the Search and Rescue[helicopter] if they are totally stuck although that is very unlikely.”

Have you needed emergency heart care and want to tell your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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With time of the essence where the survival of a heart attack is concerned it is terrifying to think that someone in desperate need of treatment could be trapped in the back of an ambulance on the A140 because yet another crash has blocked the road.

And it seems ambulance crews are also choosing to avoid the road, preferring to go up to an extra 20 miles because the A12 and A14 are more reliable.

But this takes even more choice away from the Suffolk patient and puts more pressure on the other two hospitals.

The issue of the roads has always been something that The Evening Star has highlighted from the very beginning of the campaign and during Professor Roger Boyle's forced inquiry into the matter it emerged that the distances had not even been road-tested by the ambulance service.

Extra minutes count. These new revelations highlight once more just how important it is for Suffolk to have its own PPCI centre.

Plans to treat all emergency heart attack patients in PPCI centres - which are all outside Suffolk - were revealed after The Evening Star uncovered them in the SHA's strategy to improve healthcare in the region

The original proposals by the SCG meant people would not be given clot-busting drugs in the back of ambulances but would go straight to the specialist centres to undergo angioplasty, which involves using a balloon to clear blocked arteries.

More than 24,000 signatures were collected against the move by The Evening Star, prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives Ben Gummer, and Heartbeat East Suffolk.

Professor Boyle, the national heart tsar, and his team, investigated in detail concerns over journey times and inequalities expressed by the patients and clinicians. He ordered that a thorough audit of previously-untested journey times was carried out. This trial period started on September 1, and could last six months.

The Evening Star launched its Have A Heart Appeal to help set up a catheter laboratory at Ipswich Hospital for non-urgent heart operations. It could eventually be expanded into a specialist primary angioplasty centre.

To support the 'Have a Heart' appeal send cheques made payable to Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust to Have a Heart, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or donate money in person at the Star's Ipswich offices.

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