Heart horror is happening

IPSWICH and Suffolk's heart care nightmare is unfolding in full, terrible detail, The Evening Star can reveal today.

FURY has been unleashed today as health chiefs stand accused of gagging the debate on the treatment of serious heart attack patients.

Public outrage was caused when the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG) announced plans to take serious heart attack patients in Suffolk to specialist treatment (PPCI) centres at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridge and Basildon in Essex.

And now more anger has erupted as health bosses have refused a request by The Evening Star for regular updates on journey times and the amount of patients being taken to out of county specialist centres each week during the three month trial which was ordered by heart tsar Professor Roger.

The East of England Ambulance Service and The East of England Strategic Health Authority have turned down the request because they claim that because the numbers of patients involved are so few, it would breach confidentiality to provide the details.

However, the details will be provided at the end of the trial.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP, said: “Merely saying the amount of people taken to centres and the journey times does not breach confidentiality. There are ways of getting around it if they wanted to be open.

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“There are all sorts of ways to protect confidentiality. They have got to find ways of getting this information otherwise there will be no question of changing the plans because no one will believe them. It is in their interests to provide this information.”

Tony Ramsey, of Heartbeat East Suffolk, said: “Because we have had the debate in public and time is of the essence, this information should be in the public domain. What are they afraid of?”

Sources have revealed there have been about 15 serious heart attack patients in Suffolk taken to PPCI centres since the trial began but the East of England Ambulance Service has refused to confirm this.

- Do you know someone who has had to have emergency treatment at one of the centres since the trial began? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

View from health chiefs:-

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Trust 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.”

A spokesman for the SHA said: “We are talking about incredibly small numbers and we do not want to start talking about things which could break patient confidentiality. With very small numbers, it is not going to give anyone any real information.”

The data from the ambulance service and hospitals is being co-ordinated by three cardiac networks and will then be validated by the Eastern Region Public Health Observatory.

The story so far:-

- 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

- Concerns became so widespread that a review was called for just ten days before the move was due to take place on June 1.

- 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.

- 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.

- It was also agreed that during the trial patients would be given clot-busting drugs in ambulances en route to PPCI centres if deemed necessary

- 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.

The patient experience:-

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.

Mr Huckle was given clot-busting drugs at his home by a crew from the East of England Ambulance Service before being taken to the PPCI centre where he received an emergency angioplasty.

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.

How you can help:-

Donations have been flooding in since the Have A Heart Appeal began a few weeks ago to help set up a catheter laboratory at Ipswich Hospital. The lab will initially be used to treat non-urgent heart operations but could eventually be expanded into a primary angioplasty centre

The appeal is asking for just one pound from every person who may need care at Ipswich Hospital's cardiac department in the future - which would collect around �350,000. The total is already exceeding �11,800.

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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