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More patients to benefit from heart treatment

PUBLISHED: 07:58 25 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 July 2010

Roger Colman pictured in the care of Junior Sister Jane Claxton of the Corony Care Unit.

Roger Colman pictured in the care of Junior Sister Jane Claxton of the Corony Care Unit.

Patients from north-west Norfolk will be taken across the county for emergency heart attack treatment from next month.

Dozens of patients in central Norfolk have already benefited from a life-saving service which has been running for six months at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Patients from north-west Norfolk will be taken across the county for emergency heart attack treatment from next month.

Dozens of patients in central Norfolk have already benefited from a life-saving service which has been running for six months at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Now from early July all emergency heart attack patients from the King's Lynn area will be taken to the N&N.

The new treatment is primary angioplasty, which unblocks arteries with a tiny balloon inserted through the wrist or leg, instead of relying on clot-busting drugs, known as thrombolysis, as at present.

There have been concerns about patients having to travel long distances instead of going to their nearest hospital. The concerns are especially fierce in Suffolk, where patients will also travel to the N&N rather than Ipswich Hospital, which does not do primary angioplasty.

Because of the level of worry in Suffolk, the proposals are under review and their implementation has been put on hold. The government's heart tsar, Roger Boyle, visited Ipswich to listen to concerns last week.

But Liam Hughes, cardiology consultant at the N&N, says that even with the greater travelling distances, people will still be getting better treatment.

He said: “After clot-busting your artery will still look like a dog's dinner, with some narrowing of the artery, and there is a risk of future problems. After successful angio-plasty the degree of blood flow is completely normal.

“Not everyone is suitable for clot-busting drugs, and there is a small risk of bleeding. In a quarter of people who are thrombolysed, the drug doesn't unblock the artery.

“Everybody bangs on about life- saving but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is about quality of life. It can mean the difference between life and death, but in some people it is the difference between being able to go back to work or not, or having to give up golf or not.”

In the last six months the N&N team has treated more than 300 emergency heart attacks, including 68 primary angioplasties.

Dr Hughes said: “You are just as safe in the back of an ambulance, where you are getting expert care, as you are in a coronary care unit without angioplasty.”

The N&N will even take some heart attack patients from north Essex when the air ambulance is available to bring them. Once they arrive at hospital, their artery can be unblocked in as little as 11 minutes.

A report yesterday from the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership said that nearly half of heart-attack patients in England are now receiving primary angioplasty.

Professor Boyle said: “Primary angioplasty is the international gold standard of heart attack treatment. Today's report shows that the number of heart-attack patients receiving this emergency care has increased rapidly by 80pc over the past year - a fantastic achievement by the NHS.”

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