New hope in heart battle

IPSWICH: A specialist emergency heart centre for Ipswich is not being “ruled out”, says health secretary Andy Burnham.

The revelation will renew optimism that the Heath Road hospital could eventually house the state-of-the-art facility – thus putting an end to the current controversial system which sees patients sent on a road dash to centres outside of Suffolk.

But the timing of Mr Burnham’s comments – which come days before the General Election – have been criticised by Labour opponents.

Ben Gummer, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, asked where Mr Burnham and town MP Chris Mole had been when the changes to heart attack services took place last year.

Since September, those requiring angioplasty – a specialist lifesaving treatment for serious emergency heart attacks – have to be taken to Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) centres in Basildon, Norwich and Papworth.

Non-emergency heart patients are also forced to travel for surgery at Papworth.

The Evening Star, which has fought the axing of services at Ipswich Hospital, launched the Have a Heart appeal to help set up a catheter laboratory where non-emergency elective patients can get treatment so they will no longer need to travel.

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Approval for an elective centre will be sought at a hospital board meeting in the coming months.

Mr Mole has previously rejected the notion of a specialist emergency facility in Ipswich, but today admitted: “If a business proposal was made for a centre to produce the right clinical outcomes and the right services for the surrounding areas, then I’m sure that no one would object.”

But Mr Gummer claimed the centre would not even be a possibility had he and the Star not vehemently opposed the changes.

“We found out about these changes,” he said. “They were trying to get them through on the sly.

“We are getting an elective angioplasty as a result of the campaign we had. If we had left this to the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and the town’s MP, we would not have had an ability to have a PPCI centre.

“Just days before an election Mr Burnham calls up to reassure the local paper. But where were Mr Mole and Andy Burnham when Ipswich Hospital needed them?”

Mr Burnham said: “Chris Mole has raised the concerns of the local people with me.

“It is often the case that you cannot provide the specialist services in every locality and so we have to provide them in a small number of regional centres.

“At the end of the day my responsibility is to save lives and I have got to put in place, in every region, the specialist services providing up-to-date treatment.

“Ipswich Hospital will continue to be a very important regional centre of care. While some services may change, others come in.

“I’m not ruling it out (a PPCI centre at Ipswich). Over time we would want to build on the quality we can provide.

“It is important the vast majority of people would be cared for at their local hospital.”

Mark Dyson, Ipswich’s parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It is not good to gamble with people’s lives. Every hospital in the country has its strings pulled by London.

“The emphasis in Ipswich must be that the people in Ipswich have the best chance of survival.”

n 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.

n Are you a heart patient who has a view on this? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail