New attack over heart service changes

A SCATHING letter has today been sent to eastern health chiefs over the decision to treat emergency heart attack patients outside Suffolk.

A SCATHING letter has today been sent to eastern health chiefs over the decision to treat emergency heart attack patients outside Suffolk.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for adult and community services, is outraged at plans which will see victims face long journeys to Norwich, Papworth or Basildon for treatment from June 1, rather than be given life-saving clot-busting drugs by paramedics and taken to Ipswich Hospital.

The new centres offered an improved service, angioplasty, but as heart tissue starts to die 15 minutes after a life-threatening heart attack concerns have been raised that the move leaves patients' lives in the hands of the A140, A14 and A12.

Mr Newman is also angry at separate proposals which would see pancreatic cancer surgery scraped at Ipswich Hospital and moved to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge.

In a letter to Paul Watson, the director of commissioning at NHS East of England, Mr Newman said: “My concerns about the withdrawal, or rearrangement, of these services are twofold.

“That they may cause a diminution in the quality of health provision for the people of Ipswich and Suffolk - especially east Suffolk; and that the decisions have not been subject to the proper scrutiny by elected representatives on the Health Scrutiny Committee.”

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Mr Newman called for the current consultation into the plans to scrap pancreatic cancer surgery to be extended for one month and for the changes to emergency cardiac treatment to be delayed by at least two months, so a proper consultation could take place.

Dr Paul Watson, director of commissioning at NHS East of England, the Strategic Health Authority, said: “I have not received this letter from councillor Newman, I have only seen it because the Evening Star brought it to my attention.

“This is disappointing because it concerns serious issues which could have been clarified to councillor Newman directly.

“Lives will be saved in Suffolk as a direct result of the introduction of specialist heart attack centres and a specialist pancreatic cancer centre for the east of England.”

Dr Robert Winter, medical director of NHS East of England, said: "Establishing designated heart attack centres was one of the key recommendations we made in our strategic vision 'Towards the best, together' because it delivers better care for patients and will save lives. 'Towards the best, together' was subject to wide consultation last year.”

Should health chiefs have conducted a consultation on plans to treat heart attack patients outside Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.