Lifesaving Norfolk Heart Attack Centre launches

From next week a lifesaving new Heart Attack Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will treat patients with Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI) within just two hours of their heart attack.

The conventional immediate treatment for heart attack sufferers has been the injection of clot-busting drugs (thrombolysis) but giving patients PPCI, also known as primary angioplasty, restores blood flow to the heart by inserting and inflating a small balloon in the blocked artery. The treatment saves more lives if the procedure is carried out within hours. Once the balloon is inflated a rigid “stent” (tube) is often put in place to open up the artery allowing blood to flow freely.

The new Norfolk Heart Attack Centre will be offering the treatment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will cover the central Norfolk population of over half a million people. The NNUH team has been working closely with the East of England Ambulance NHS Trust to develop the new lifesaving service.

About 227,000 people a year suffer from heart attacks in Britain. If they are all given angioplasty, a further 240 lives could be saved. Angioplasty is already a routine procedure at NNUH for patients with angina. About 45,000 such procedures are carried out in Britain every year.

Giving primary angioplasty to people who have had a heart attack reduces the number of possible complications, the likelihood of another attack or strokes and the time patients spend in hospital.

NNUH interventional cardiologist Dr Tim Gilbert is leading the new Norfolk Heart Attack Centre service and said: “The ability of the hospital cardiology team to work closely with ambulance staff to provide a Primary Angioplasty service will significantly improve the chances of surviving a heart attack and reduce the need for further investigation and treatment.

“A quarter of all patients who currently receive clot busting drugs for their heart attack fail to respond to this treatment and when this happens, they need to be transferred as an emergency to Papworth Hospital, 75 miles away. The development of this service locally will avoid the risks of this type of complication occurring.

As a result of this new treatment the number of days spent in hospital will be reduced significantly, meaning that patients will be able to return to a normal lifestyle earlier and with the confidence that they have had the best possible treatment. All of my colleagues in the Cardiology team and our colleagues in the ambulance trust have made a huge contribution to the development of this service which will be of enormous benefit to the people of Norfolk.”

Retired pilot Nigel Luscombe-Whyte, 73, has had a number of heart-related problems and has been involved in the development of the Norfolk Heart Attack Centre: “The treatment used to be bypass surgery, which I have had, and it's quite a traumatic, debilitating procedure which does take months to recover from. I have since also had angioplasty at the Norfolk and Norwich and there is no comparison. I had my stent fitted, went home the following day, and I felt absolutely fine.”

Dr Ian Mack, Clinical Executive Member for NHS Norfolk said: “This is good news for the people of Norfolk as there continues to be technological advances in the care of patients of heart disease. It is essential here in Norfolk that we have leading edge doctors and nurses to provide this service. NHS Norfolk has made a clear commitment, financially, to this critical area of care.”

Sir Neil McKay, NHS East of England Chief Executive said: “The overwhelming evidence is that patients who have suffered a heart attack have a significantly greater chance of survival and recovery if they are treated in a specialist centre staffed by specialist teams with the best medical equipment.

“Establishing designated heart attack centres was one of the key recommendations we made in our strategic vision Towards the best, together because it delivers better care for patients and will save lives.”

Tuesday 31st of March 2009 12:00:58 PM