Our letter to the new health secretary

Dear Mr Burnham,Congratulations on your new role as health secretary.We appreciate it will be a busy time for you in a new, challenging and extremely important role, but we urge you to make your first decision a decisive and powerful one which firmly sets out your intention to save lives and listen to patients.

Dear Mr Burnham,

Congratulations on your new role as health secretary.

We appreciate it will be a busy time for you in a new, challenging and extremely important role, but we urge you to make your first decision a decisive and powerful one which firmly sets out your intention to save lives and listen to patients.

As the Prime Minister said, the Government needs to prove it is humble enough to admit when it has made mistakes. And by repealing the outrageous decision to provide emergency heart attack care only in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire or Essex, and not Suffolk, you can show the country that those in power truly are answerable to the public.

Here is a background to the huge controversy over heart attack care:

Our region's Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG) decided to set up new primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth Hospital and Basildon Hospital and - despite representations from clinicians and management - refused to do the same at Suffolk's Ipswich Hospital, which currently has the third best mortality rates for heart attack care in the country.

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Your own department's guidelines say primary angioplasty should be provided within 120 minutes of calling for help whenever possible, and suggests a maximum time of 150 minutes. To quote the Department of Health's April document A Guide to Implementing Primary Angioplasty: "Where the time delay for an individual patient is likely to be significantly greater than 120 or 150 minutes, then pre-hospital thrombolysis should be considered but the patient should then be transferred to the PPCI centre for further evaluation and treatment as necessary." These guidelines are in place because all clinicians agree that as journey times go up, so do death rates.

Yet in the east the SHA and SCG decided people in Suffolk could wait for 165 minutes.

They have also point-blank refused to consider setting up a centre in Ipswich, which makes sense given our region's unique geography, and would give our patients the same chance as life as those in other areas.

Understandably this decision has caused outrage of a previously unknown level in Suffolk. More than 20,000 signatures have now been received against the plans and a review of the decision has been called.

Today we urge you to personally take charge and stop this despicable move going ahead.

Your predecessor, Alan Johnson, said he could not get involved because it was a matter for the SHA. However by failing to consult with local people, clinicians, patient bodies, politicians and even other NHS bodies the SHA has shown itself incapable of implementing this decision.

It is now so firmly entrenched in its own dogma that it is refusing to listen to all rational argument, or even admit that it did not properly inform people in Suffolk of the gigantic decision it was making on their behalf.

The people of Suffolk ask you to pull out all the stops by setting up a primary angioplasty centre in Ipswich, so they have the same chance of life as everyone else.

Yours sincerely,

The Evening Star