Suffolk: Concerns raised over number of heart attack patients receiving timely treatment

Dr Alan Murray, chair of Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee

Dr Alan Murray, chair of Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee - Credit: Archant

ONE in four emergency heart attack patients from east Suffolk are not receiving potentially life-saving specialist care within the nationally recommended time, new figures have revealed.

Experts today shared their concerns as 26% of 168 patients suffering serious heart attacks between April 2011 and March last year failed to receive potentially life-saving treatment to unblock their arteries in the time recognised as giving people the best chances.

The figures – the result of a pathway introduced following a shake-up of emergency care in the region – are set to be debated at Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Meeting next Thursday.

The guidelines state patients should reach a PPCI (primary percutaneous coronary intervention) centre and receive angioplasty treatment within two-and-a-half hours of the initial call.

The procedure involves inserting a deflated balloon through blood vessels to the site of the blockage in the heart.


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At the blockage the balloon is inflated to allow blood to flow through again. A stent can then be inserted to permanently open the artery.

In May 2009 controversial new plans introduced by the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group, meant patients requiring angioplasty would be treated in one of three PPCI (primary percutaneous coronary intervention) centres in East Anglia – at Papworth Hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich and Basildon.

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Following a pilot of journey times ordered by heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle, following an outcry from patients in east Suffolk, a new PPCI pathway for patients from east Suffolk started in April 2011.

Alan Murray, chair of the scrutiny committee said the figures “on the face of it do give cause for concern”.

Dr Murray said he has requested more information from NHS Suffolk before next Thursday’s meeting.

“Having received the information scrutiny are very interested in the significant percentage of patients who are not reaching a PPCI centre for treatment within 150 minutes.

“I have asked NHS Suffolk for more information both absolute timings and the particular distances patients are being asked to travel.

“I am also keen to see comparisons with other rural areas with the same geography.

“It maybe that there is a cause for concern on the face of these figures.”

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter said problems with ambulance response times in rural parts of east Suffolk are “without doubt” a contributing factor.

He said: “There is absolutely no doubt ambulance response times in some parts of rural east Suffolk are unacceptable.

“It is not the fact the paramedics don’t want to get to patients but the fact that senior managers have chosen not to put resources in those rural areas.

“Time when someone is suffering a heart attack is of the essence. The more time taken to receive treatment the lesser the patient’s chances of recovery.”

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “The 150 minute call to balloon time is not a maximum time limit. Patient outcome is more important than call to balloon time. During the trial period Professor Roger Boyle concluded that although journey times from east Suffolk were longer than the average across the east of England, mortality was comparable with the east of England as a whole.

“There has been a rigorous and attentive audit scrutinised by doctors from Ipswich and the Heart Attack Centres. There is no evidence of worse outcome.”

In 2010 Professor Boyle recommended that while patients needing emergency care should still be sent to one of the regional centres those requiring elective care should be treated in a new PCI centre at Ipswich Hospital.

Last February the funding was secured for the new centre to be built at Heath Road. The first patients are expected to be treated at the centre later this year.

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