PAPWORTH Hospital has launched a pioneering new service that could save the lives of hundreds of heart attack victims. Paramedics will now take patients direct to the specialist hospital for emergency surgery, instead of taking them to the nearest A&E dep
PAPWORTH Hospital has launched a pioneering new service that could save the lives of hundreds of heart attack victims.
Paramedics will now take patients direct to the specialist hospital for emergency surgery, instead of taking them to the nearest A&E department.
A Department of Health study has estimated that if this kind of service were adopted nationally it could prevent around 500 deaths, approximately 1,000 further heart attacks and up to 250 strokes each year.
The scheme was launched on Monday and means patients will no longer be given clot-busting drugs by paramedics. Instead, they will have an operation in which a small balloon is used to open blocked arteries, before they are kept open by a stent.
However, the launch follows news that funding has been stopped for a revolutionary new machine at the hospital.
The Organ Care System buys surgeons valuable time while they search for a suitable recipient for the heart by keeping it "alive", instead of having to pack it in ice. Transplant surgeons had used the machine nine times during a two-year trial period - with a 100 per cent success rate. However, the Department of Health has told the hospital it will not fund the machine until more studies have been completed. Papworth was one of only four hospitals in Europe to trial the American-made machine.
Meanwhile, the initiative to stop people suffering complications after having a heart attack will help save hospital resources.
Launching the new scheme for taking heart patients direct to Papworth, Dr Sarah Clarke, consultant cardiologist and clinical director of cardiac services at the hospital, said that surgeons expect to treat 250 patients taken in directly in the first year but the influx of patients would not put a strain on facilities.
She explained: "If patients can have this specialist treatment at the earliest opportunity, it greatly improves their chance of survival and having a good quality of life. What we are doing is treating the root cause of the problem straight away, not just treating the symptom.
"If people are only given the thrombolytic drug, we end up seeing a vast majority of them further down line, when their condition has worsened, when more heart muscle has been damaged and when treating them is more difficult."
The move is part of Papworth's Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Service (PPCI) and follows recommendations made by the East of England Strategic Health Authority, which oversees the spending of local health budgets.
Papworth is working with the East of England Ambulance Service on the initiative, which will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Patients from the Addenbrooke's, Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough catchment areas will initially benefit from the new scheme but there are plans to expand it after six to 12 months and a review.
Dr Clarke added: "If someone thinks they have the symptoms of a heart attack, they must call 999 for an ambulance as soon as possible. The highly skilled paramedics will be able to diagnose a heart attack and take the patient to Papworth.
"It is important that people do not come directly to Papworth themselves, but call 999 and let the ambulance services do the rest.