Top doc hits out at heart move

A FORMER top doctor has today warned that people living in east Suffolk will be put at risk if patients suffering from serious heart attacks are sent to other parts of the region.

A FORMER top doctor has today warned that people living in east Suffolk will be put at risk if patients suffering from serious heart attacks are sent to other parts of the region.

Dr Douglas Seaton was consultant physician at Ipswich Hospital for 27 years before retiring in 2006 - and said the strategic health authority would be breaking its basic principles if it goes ahead with the proposal.

These are:

Deliver a better patient experience

Improve people's health

Reduce unfairness in health.

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Dr Seaton said: “These aspirations may have a hollow ring about them for many Suffolk residents in view of the SHA's recent proposals and the draconian way in which its message was delivered.”

He said the proposals ran counter to these principles.

“Will the patient's experience be better if he or she has to undergo a long ambulance trip to Papworth Hospital (66 miles from central Ipswich), the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (45 miles) or Basildon Hospital in Essex (57 miles)?

“Google estimates for these journey times from an IP1 post code is 79, 73 and 77 minutes respectively. An ambulance might manage the journey faster but it first has to reach the caller who may well be in a rural district and traffic conditions are often uncertain. The initial part of the patient experience would certainly be no better.”

He disputed claims that the move would be better for the health of patients from East Suffolk.

“The question that needs answering is whether the delayed treatment resulting from transport time added to the receiving hospital's door to balloon time will still offer real benefits when compared with rapid thrombolysis given locally.

“I'm not convinced that this question has been answered yet for Suffolk people, particularly those in the east of our county.

“We know that thrombolysis is currently administered very rapidly in the catchment area of Ipswich Hospital, often in the ambulance by experienced paramedics.

“There is also the issue of the possible consequences if the patient's condition deteriorates seriously en route to one of the out-of-county centres. The paramedics are highly trained but the facilities in an ambulance are obviously limited.”

And he warned that the move would widen the health gap between people in east Suffolk and those nearer the specialist centres.

“Will the new scheme reduce unfairness in health? Not if delayed treatment causes people living in East Suffolk to experience more heart muscle damage than those living nearer the proposed centres in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Essex.”

Dr Seaton said the current facilities at Ipswich Hospital were very effective - but said in the future a specialist heart attack centre should be created here.

He said: “Ipswich Hospital has carried out thrombolysis very well but now PPCI has been shown to be more effective provided it is carried out without delay.

“The SHA should be looking to expand cardiology services in Suffolk by planning for the future provision of PPCI in Ipswich Hospital.

“It might in the meantime be possible for some consultant cardiologists from Papworth to assist the local team with daytime work in Ipswich.

“This is a matter that local people feel very strongly about and all our politicians had better take note.”

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