Distance crucial for heart centre deaths

IT'S scary but it's true - Ipswich residents will be more likely to die from emergency heart attacks than people in Norwich if heart attack changes get the go-ahead.

IT'S scary but it's true -Ipswich residents will be more likely to die from emergency heart attacks than people in Norwich if heart attack changes get the go-ahead.

Experts involved in the changes have all admitted that the shorter the delay in getting victims to hospital the better.

In the ultimate life-and-death postcode lottery Suffolk patients will have less chance of surviving than those in other parts of East Anglia, simply because health bosses have chosen to create specialist heart centres in Norwich, Papworth and Basildon - but not Suffolk.

The proposals, which are currently the subject of a review prompted by The Evening Star and outcry from heart patients, would see patients in Suffolk rushed outside the county for urgent treatment, with their chances of survival decreasing every minute.

As Professor Roger Boyle, the heart tsar leading the review, said himself: “Time is muscle - every minute you delay treatment more muscle in the heart dies.”

His conclusion is echoed by Ipswich Hospital's consultant cardiologist, Dr Duncan McNab, who said: “As the journey time goes up death rates do go up - there's no doubt about it.”

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And Dr Paul Watson, the East of England Strategic Health Authority's director of commissioning, admitted that the result of setting up the primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres in Norwich, Papworth and Basildon would be that people in those areas would be more likely to survive an emergency heart attack than those in east Suffolk.

He added: “The shorter the delay the better. So if you live next door to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital you have a better chance than if you have to travel.”

The Department of Health's own research confirms the huge health inequality, and shows that 2.7 per cent of people,who are treated at the centres within 120 minutes of calling for help, die.

And for those treated between 120 minutes and 180 minutes after the call, the percentage who do not survive reaches 4.5pc. If it takes more than 180 minutes the number leaps to 11.4pc.

Originally health bosses said people in the east should be able to be treated within 120 minutes, then it was increased to 150 minutes, and then 165 minutes - which is the time limit for east Suffolk.

Is it acceptable that people in Ipswich will be less likely to survive an emergency heart attack than people in Norwich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

PATIENTS who suffer minor, non-emergency, heart attacks, who would not need clot-busting drugs from paramedics, will still be treated at Ipswich Hospital.

And the Heath Road site will continue to provide other cardiology services and is hoping to expand its cardiology team in the near future, although the emergency treatment changes will cost the hospital about �750,000 in lost revenue yearly.

But From June 1 emergency patients with life-threatening heart attacks will be treated in three specialist centres, created by the East of England Specialised to Commissioning Group (SCG).

The SCG say the establishment of the Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention centres (PPCI) will save an estimated 50 lives a year in the east of England.

The group said treatment times and patient outcomes will be closely audited to ensure the highest possible level of care.

The centres provide primary angioplasty, a technique which uses a balloon catheter to open up blocked blood vessels in the heart.

Health bosses also propose that paramedics will no longer be able to give patients life-saving clot busting drugs as they are able to do currently because it interferes with angioplasty. However, the angioplasty is only effective if administered quickly enough.

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