Ambulance times not tested in heart care plan

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

Rebecca Lefort

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 in Norwich, Papworth near Cambridge, and Basildon in Essex, because it had not actually driven along the routes.

The news, which came on the day it emerged that ambulances in the east failed to reach dying patients quickly enough during 2008/09, caused ripples of shock among those attending the public part of the review at the Belstead Brook Hotel, Ipswich, where arguments about journey times for primary angioplasty treatment were pivotal.

Paul Murray, cardiac nurse specialist for the ambulance service, admitted the service's pledge to hit journey times of less than 90 minutes from anywhere in Suffolk to each of the three centres was not based on concrete evidence of actual journey times done under blue light conditions.

“It is mostly theoretical,” he said.

Most Read

“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.

A spokesman for the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) added: “Some journeys were theoretical and were modelled using computer modelling. Others were based on real journeys that are done often, such as Ipswich to Papworth.”

Primary angioplasty is regarded as the best treatment for serious heart attack victims, but only if it can be delivered quickly. Most national guidelines suggest a maximum time of 150 minutes from calling for help, but in the East health bosses have said the limit should be 165 minutes.