Health boss apologises over heart care plans

A TOP Suffolk health chief has said sorry for the way plans over heart attack care changes were pushed through by the NHS.

Rebecca Lefort

A TOP Suffolk health chief has said sorry for the way plans over heart attack care changes were pushed through by the NHS.

Carole Taylor-Brown, NHS Suffolk's chief executive, physically held her hands up at yesterday's board meeting after facing a barrage of questions over the controversial move to treat emergency heart attack patients in specialist centres to be set up in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, but not Suffolk.

“I don't know how I can apologise enough for the way the NHS has conducted the exchange of information about this,” she said, after numerous questions from the public.

“I fully accept that the NHS got it wrong. What we should have done as an NHS community is we should have had a proper engagement process. I feel we should have sat down and explained what was happening to people before it came up on them.

“We have, as local commissioners, to take responsibility and say we did not get it right for Suffolk people.”

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Currently emergency heart attack patients are given clot-busting drugs by paramedics and taken to their nearest hospital.

The new plans from the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group would have seen urgent patients instead taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth Hospital or Basildon Hospital, where primary angioplasty would be carried out, without the option of giving clot-busting treatment if patients could not get to the centres in time. Non emergency patients would still be treated locally.

However, following an outcry from patients NHS Suffolk, which buys and plans healthcare in the county, asked for a review of the proposals, so the move, which was due to come into effect on June 1, has been put on hold.

Mrs Taylor-Brown said she backed plans to treat people in the specialist centres, because they provided a better quality of care than was currently on offer, but was pushing for changes to make sure paramedics would still be able to give clot-busting drugs as a failsafe.

She added: “I have made very loud and clear my concerns about the coverage for our rural and coastal areas and I have said that because of the geography and difficult infrastructure we need to look at the 'what if' scenario if people can't get treatment in time.

“I strongly feel that clot-busting drugs should have remained on ambulances and I will continue to push for that.”

Ben Gummer, Ipswich's Conservative parliamentary candidate, who has been campaigning against the plans, said: “I'm really glad that Carole Taylor-Brown has admitted that there has been a terrible mistake in failing to consult the people who are losing out on vital emergency heart services.

“I'm sorry that once again she is being forced to carry the can for the faceless bureaucrats in Cambridge and Whitehall.”