Fears mount over closure of unit

CONCERN was growing today about plans which would see all heart attack patients in Suffolk being taken out of the county for treatment.

SHOCKING details of the latest cutbacks to patient care at Ipswich Hospital can be revealed by The Evening Star today.

After the loss of a series of vital service to Heath Road, the latest phase of change will see ALL heart attack treatment in Suffolk taken out of the county.

So, a heart attack patient picked up in far-flung Felixstowe, or the Ipswich area, is likely to face either a long, difficult, journey up the A140 to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital … some 60 miles away from parts of the Suffolk coast.

If not Norwich it will be a trip to Papworth (82miles away in Cambridgeshire) or Basildon (68 miles away) in Essex.

That means a fight for life would be taking place in the back of an ambulance over many miles of difficult road between Suffolk and Norfolk with all its potential delays.

Today the Star is stepping up is 10-year Heath Watch campaign - and has been joined in the fight by the town's Conservative candidate Ben Gummer.

Most Read

Meanwhile Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole called for a close look at the proposals and urged a rethink if major problems showed up.

Health bosses have decided to set up specialist Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) centres in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, but not Suffolk, leaving patients worried they will face long journeys for help at a time when speedy treatment is vital.

Today Ipswich's Conservative parliamentary candidate, Ben Gummer, launched his own campaign to make sure a PPCI centre was placed in Ipswich too.

“The decision not to site a PPCI centre at Ipswich Hospital is irresponsible,” he said.

“This is not a complex medical debate - heart attacks are the biggest killer in the UK and more people here in Ipswich would survive them if they could have treatment at a specialist centre here in the town, not miles away at the end of an unreliable road.

“I want to make sure that if anyone in our town has a heart attack they have the best chance of survival.

“The lives of people in Ipswich are being chanced on the traffic on the A140. I have no doubt that people will die in ambulances unable to make it to the hospitals on time.”

Mr Gummer hopes to overturn the decision of the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group, which decided where to place the centres.

He is particularly concerned that the decision has gone against the wishes of Ipswich Hospital bosses, with its chief executive, Andrew Reed, saying earlier this year: “We expressed our reservations that having only three PPCI centres for the East of England could disadvantage residents of Suffolk because of the distances that many patients will have to travel.”

The hospital's other cardiology services are not under threat, and it is currently planned to expand its department.

Mr Mole said: "I think that the SCG is clearly trying to organise this service to save something like 50 lives a year across the East of England.

"My view would be that if over a period of time they find that patients from Suffolk and north east Essex can't be got to PPCI centres then they should return to the question of providing pre-hospital thrombolysis or consider Ipswich for a part time PPCI centre."

Are you concerned that heart attack victims will have to travel outside of Suffolk for treatment. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Health bosses' views

A SPOKESWOMAN for the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group, the body which decided not to place a PPCI in Ipswich, said: “The establishment of a PPCI service is a national priority to improve cardiac services, which across the East of England alone will save an estimated 50 lives each year.

“Four centres serving patients from the East of England region (including the Royal Brompton in London) have been selected to provide the new emergency PPCI service.

“All four centres have previously provided a service for planned PCI admissions, are able to offer the service 24 hours a day seven days a week, and are located to ensure that the service can be reached from anywhere in the region within the critical time frame recommended by the British Cardiovascular Intervention Society.

“Ipswich Hospital does not provide an elective PCI service and therefore will not be losing a service as a consequence of the new arrangements. The outcomes for heart attack patients in this area will be considerably better.

“Patients in east Suffolk will normally be taken to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, although Papworth Hospital and Basildon Hospital are available depending on the patient's exact location and prevailing conditions.

“Treatment times and patient outcomes will be closely audited to ensure that the highest possible level of care is being delivered.”

Kelvin Abbott

HEART attack victim Kelvin Abbott said he was appalled that if he suffered another attack he would have to travel outside of Suffolk to be treated.

Mr Abbott, of Sprites Lane, Ipswich, almost died when he collapsed with a heart attack at Maidenhall Sports Centre in the town in November 2007.

He was treated by people on the scene and taken to Ipswich Hospital by paramedics where he stayed for one week, before going to Papworth Hospital once his condition stabilised.

Mr Abbott said: “I'm really concerned about it. I thought the treatment at Ipswich was excellent and had I not gone there first and straight away I might not be here.

“I think this move will be putting lives at risk. It's a hideous idea that could end up being disastrous.

“I don't doubt the care will be excellent at the new centres, but you just have to hope people get there in time.

“If there is a problem on the road who knows what will happen? It is not a risk people should have to take.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter