County misses out on life-saving unit

HEART attack victims in Suffolk have been denied life-saving care after Ipswich Hospital lost out on a specialist treatment centre.

Rebecca Lefort

HEART attack victims in Suffolk have been denied life-saving care after Ipswich Hospital lost out on a specialist treatment centre.

This is the latest in a line of set backs for the hospital which last year saw its head and neck cancer surgery move to Norwich and is currently facing the threat of having pancreatic cancer surgery moved to Cambridge.

Doctors made a bid for a Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Centre (PPCI) centre - which improves heart attack survival rates - to be established at the hospital in Heath Road.


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However the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group decided the specialist centres should be placed in Basildon in Essex, Papworth in Cambridgeshire and Norwich, but none in Suffolk.

The decision has been criticised by the chief executive of Ipswich Hospital who feels Suffolk residents will be disadvantaged by the distance needed to travel to the centres.

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Andrew Reed said: “PPCI is not currently provided at Ipswich Hospital and is only provided at specialist centres.

“However technological advances mean that it can now be made more accessible.

“We expressed our reservations that having only three PPCI centres for the East of England could disadvantage residents of Suffolk because of the distances that many patients will have to travel.

“We believe that a more local network of PPCI services - including Ipswich - may be a better option for east Suffolk.”

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, echoed his concern, saying the time delay for treatment could be vital.

“If people have a cardiac crisis it will take longer for them to be treated than people in Essex, Norfolk or Cambridgeshire and that time delay could be vital.

“My worry is that the people who make these decisions have no idea about the geography of the county.

“I believe that because of these decisions and the gradual downgrading of Ipswich Hospital people are less safe now in this area than they were 30 years ago.”

Meanwhile Len Tate, vice president of Heartbeat East Suffolk, the patient support group for people with heart problems, added: “We are dismayed to learn that Ipswich Hospital has not been proposed to be a PPCI centre, despite the support and evidence of the cardiologists and the GPs in Suffolk.

“With our region being of a rural nature and with uncertain travel times, it affords a black hole in relation to travel times and patient outcomes.”

The specialist centres improve heart attack survival rates by offering an innovative technique which puts stents in patient's arteries allowing blood to flow more freely. This is known as angioplasty.

A spokeswoman for the SCG, which made the decision said: “The decision to implement PPCI is a big improvement for patients and is estimated to save 50 lives across the East of England every year.

“Currently patients experiencing a heart attack are treated by paramedics with 'clot-busting' drugs, known as pre hospital thrombolysis (PHT).

“There is significant evidence that PPCI is a more clinically effective intervention than PHT.”

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