Trials to test ambulance journey times due to begin

A TRIAL period to test ambulance journey times to specialist heart care centres outside Suffolk is set to begin next week.

Naomi Gornall

A TRIAL period to test ambulance journey times to specialist heart care centres outside Suffolk is set to begin next week.

Plans by health chiefs to treat all emergency heart attack patients in specialist primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres in Norwich, Papworth in Cambridgeshire, and Basildon in Essex sparked outrage as there were fears people would not be treated quickly enough.

However, during a visit to Suffolk last month, national heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle ordered a thorough audit of previously-untested journey times to be carried out and this is set to start next Tuesday.

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Currently emergency heart attack victims are given clot-busting drugs by paramedics or in hospital.

The plans by the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (SCG) would still see them being given clot-busting drugs in the back of ambulances, but they would then would be taken to one of the specialist centres to undergo angioplasty, which involves using a balloon to clear blocked arteries.

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After the pilot, which will last at least three months, experts will study survival rates and then make a further recommendation.

Simon Griffith, associate director of specialised commissioning, at the NHS East of England SCG, said: “One purpose of this pilot is to record the actual journey times from east Suffolk to the heart attack centres. This information, together with other clinical data being collected by the ambulance service and the hospitals, will be sent to Professor Boyle's team for expert independent analysis.

“This evaluation is to ensure that clinical outcomes in east Suffolk can be benchmarked against national and international clinical evidence on best practice. Having reviewed all the data Professor Boyle will make his final recommendations on the way forward for east Suffolk.”

Peter Donaldson, medical director of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said: “The cardiologists and emergency physicians at Ipswich Hospital have been consulted about the pilot and fully support it. What patients feel about the new service and their experiences is a very important part of the pilot. We welcome the opportunity the pilot brings for us to audit patients' views.”

A leaflet is also being sent out to every household in Suffolk over the coming weeks to further explain how heart attacks are treated in the county, address public concerns and put across the facts.

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