Fury over ambulance run

OUTRAGE has been caused among The Evening Star readers after a heart attack patient had to endure a race for life across Suffolk and Essex.

OUTRAGE has been caused among The Evening Star readers after a heart attack patient had to endure a race for life across Suffolk and Essex.

When Brian Huckle suffered a heart attack in his Felixstowe home, he was taken on a gruelling 65-mile journey to Basildon Hospital, during which his wife, Anne, believed he might not make it.

The story, revealed in The Star last week, sparked concern among readers, with one describing the situation as “outrageous”.

Since the beginning of this month, serious heart attack patients have been taken to high-tech angioplasty centres in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridge and Basildon in Essex, following proposals by the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group. At the time, concerns were raised that people would not be treated in time.

The East of England Ambulance Service has refused to provide a record of how many heart attack patients are taken outside Suffolk during the trial. It has also refused to provide exact details of when Mr Huckle received specific treatment because of “patient confidentiality”.

Fortunately Mr Huckle survived the journey, as he was given some clot-busting drugs to stabilise him and then an angioplasty at Basildon Hospital, which involves using a balloon to clear blocked arteries.

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However Mrs Huckle not only found the journey traumatic but added that travelling to and from Basildon over the days that followed was a nuisance.

The East of England Ambulance Service said the decision about where to take emergency heart attack patients is down to the paramedic crew and depends on the distance to be travelled.

Mrs Huckle, 63, said: “I have had a lot of people stop me in the streets since the article went in. It made them aware of what was going on and they were pleased I made a stand about it. I just hope it helps to get a specialist centre in Ipswich.”

Star reader Helen Blackman said: “I am appalled that the decision to move critical heart care away from Ipswich is going ahead on the grounds that it is a trial to see if the death rate is increased. Do we all pray it isn't one of our loved ones who dies in this experiment?”

Other comments left on the website, www.eveningstar.co.uk, stated:

Ged said: “This sums up everyone's fears here in Suffolk. The uncaring attitude of the health bosses over a 65-mile tortuous journey for loved ones is a total disgrace.”

Jane Southernwood: “Outrageous - what if there had been an accident on the way and the ambulance couldn't get through? This is a disgrace.”

Do you know of someone who has suffered a heart attack since the trial began and you want to tell us your experiences? Call 01473 324800 or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The Evening Star asked the East of England Ambulance Service to provide us with a daily record of how many emergency heart attack patients are taken to hospitals outside the county for treatment, and ambulance journey times. However this request was refused.

A spokeswoman for the service said: “I have discussed the request with our commissioners and unfortunately it is felt that it would be inappropriate for us to provide a running commentary about this service. Details of the trial will be published when it is complete.”

Heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle ordered a trial period to test journey times from east Suffolk to the specialist Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) centres.

After the pilot, which began on September 1 and will last at least three months, experts will study survival rates and then make a further recommendation.

The SCG say the establishment of the PPCI centres will save an estimated 50 lives a year in the east of England.