Heart fight: Hopes of NHS u-turn rise

HOPES were rising today that controversial heart care changes planned for Suffolk will be shelved in a dramatic u-turn by the NHS.

HOPES were rising today that controversial heart care changes planned for Suffolk will be shelved in a dramatic u-turn by the NHS.

Public outrage grew by the day after Evening Star revelations that serious heart attacks patients would be taken out of Suffolk for treatment.

Regional health chiefs decided the victims would be taken to one of three centres, in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk - without the use of life-saving, clot-busting drugs.

There was anger that mainly-rural Suffolk would be getting a worse service than in other counties of the east - and that the changes threatened that:

Lives would be risked because of poor ambulance journey times

Ipswich Hospital's existing heart care facilities, including the ability at attract quality cardiologists - would be diluted.

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The region's NHS chiefs, who admitted failings in their communication with the public, ordered a review by Britain's heart tsar, professor Roger Boyle and a whirlwind series of meetings has been taking place in the last couple of weeks.

His findings were being presented to key stakeholders in Ipswich this afternoon and it is understood he will propose a year when clot-busting drugs will be used by ambulance paramedics if lives are at risk.

During the 12-month period an assessment will take place on the viability of the original plans - together with checks on whether Ipswich Hospital should indeed have one of the state-of-the-art heart labs, or PPCI centres as they are called.

NHS chiefs, who will rubber-stamp the review - had tried to bulldoze the original plans through from June 1 - but a concerted campaign, led by The Evening Star and supported by Ipswich prospective parliamentary candidate Ben Gummer and Heartbeat East Suffolk, led to the postponement and review.

Evening Star editor, Nigel Pickover, said: “This would be the second victory in our campaign, allowing a breathing space for plans to be properly worked out instead of being rushed through in secret.

“The next step is to win a PPCI centre for Ipswich, possibly twinned with Colchester, so Ipswich and Suffolk people have the best heart care possible - as good as that being offered to people in other counties. We are not standing by and seeing people here suffer a postcode lottery of heart care - a PPCI centre is a must for Heath Road and we need the vision and courage to deliver it.”

Check www.eveningstar.co.uk for updates on Prof Boyle's findings - and see tomorrow's Evening Star for full coverage.

What's your view on the controversial proposals? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The regional plan was to establish three primary angioplasty centres (PPCI's).

Health bosses said paramedics would no longer be able to give patients life-saving clot busting drugs as they are able to do currently because it interferes with angioplasty.

The plans would already be in operation were it not for The Star's probe. Instead, a review, led by heart tsar professor Roger Boyle, was launched just ten days before they were due to be implemented on June 1.

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.