Two years of planning and you still got it WRONG

IT took two years and still you couldn't get it right.

Rebecca Lefort

IT took two years and still you couldn't get it right.

That is the harsh but true message today to health bosses who tried to push through plans to treat emergency heart attacks outside Suffolk.

At yesterday's review meeting into the proposals it was clear that not enough work had been done to investigate how to best serve the county - despite health bodies insisting they spent more than two discussing the plans.

Professor Roger Boyle, the national heart tsar who is leading the review following outcry from the public, acknowledged that the unique geography in the county needed to be looked into in more depth during the event at the Belstead Brook Hotel in Ipswich.“I've been here long enough to understand there is a huge strength of feeling about the change, which we are going to have to tackle,” he said.

During the meeting Prof Boyle and his team from the Department of Health listened to a heated and passionate debate about heart attack care in Suffolk.

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He was also presented with a 20-page Evening Star dossier - Saving Suffolk Lives - outlining why a heart attack centre should be set up in Ipswich, a report which is now available online.

One member of the audience, Dr John Day, told the panel that Ipswich Hospital currently had excellent heart attack survival rates and added: “It's absolute madness to change it at the moment.”

Meanwhile Jeremy Pembroke, who is likely to be selected as leader of Suffolk County Council next week, said: “Why is Ipswich being short changed?

“Why is Norfolk getting a centre? Why is Cambridgeshire getting a centre? Why is Essex getting a centre? But why is Suffolk not getting a centre?

“Let me give the NHS a warning: if this goes through the reputation of the NHS in Suffolk will take a serious blow.”

- What do you think about changes to heart attack care? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

Journey time debate:-

CONTROVERSIAL plans to treat Suffolk heart attack patients outside the county have not been properly tested, it has sensationally emerged.

During yesterday's heart attack review meeting the East of England Ambulance Service admitted it could not be sure how long it would take to get patients with life-threatening heart attacks to specialist centres because it had not actually driven along the routes.

The news that there was no concrete evidence to support health bosses' plans caused ripples of shock among those attending the public part of the review.

Paul Murray, cardiac nurse specialist for the ambulance service, admitted: “It is mostly theoretical.

“Journeys from the east Suffolk coast to Norwich do not exist at the moment, so we couldn't be sure.

“It is a weakness.”

The revelation gave many people who attended the review more concerns about the impact the plans would have on Suffolk patients.

Prof Boyle said he agreed that knowing how long it would take to treat people was important and that “the issue of really testing the system” was vital.

“It is the travel times that are absolutely the key to this,” he added.

Patient heroes:-

SUFFOLK has two new patient heroes today.

Both Anne Nicholls from Suffolk's interim patient and public involvement body and Len Tate, vice president of Heartbeat East Suffolk, stood up for people in the county during yesterday's meeting.

They both spoke passionately about why people felt so let down and why they feared the plans could put patients at risk, in front of Prof Boyle and his expert team, who made notes throughout their speeches.

Mr Tate said: “It does appear to us that along with a total lack of public consultation that there has been some mismanagement, and you should not be surprised at the extent of public reaction.

“These proposals rely upon untried travel times along rural roads.

“We feel that the decisions have been made without due care and attention. We, the patients and carers and families, ask you to consider an angioplasty service for Ipswich in order to provide the best possible care for an aging population.”

And he added that if primary angioplasty was not possible straight away then the option of giving patients clot-busting drugs should remain in place.

Meanwhile Ms Nicholls said: “The feeling is that the special circumstances of rural Suffolk haven't been thought of. And there is a feeling from the patients that, far from saving lives, a number of lives could be lost.

“There is concern that Suffolk patients will actually be less likely to survive than those near the centres.”

The proposals:-

If the proposals get the go ahead emergency patients with life-threatening heart attacks will be treated in three specialist centres, created by the East of England Specialised to Commission Group (SCG).

It says the establishment of the primary angioplasty centres, which offer an improved service than is currently on offer, will save an estimated 50 lives a year in the east of England.

Health bosses also propose that paramedics will no longer be able to give patients life-saving clot busting drugs as they are able to do currently because it interferes with angioplasty. However, the angioplasty is only effective if administered quickly enough.

The plans are currently the subject of a review which was announced just ten days before they were due to be implemented on June 1.

Patients who suffer minor, non-emergency, heart attacks, who would not need clot-busting drugs from paramedics, will still be treated at Ipswich Hospital.

And the Heath Road site will continue to provide other cardiology services and is hoping to expand its cardiology team in the near future, although the emergency treatment changes will cost the hospital about �750,000 in lost revenue yearly.

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