Specialist unit will be better for heart patients

If you have a STEMI heart attack there is a better chance you will survive if you receive treatment at a specialist 24/7 centre.

I am writing to reassure your readers the creation of a 24/7 centre, as discussed in last week’s Herald, will benefit East Sussex residents.

Rather than being a ‘downgrade’, as was reported, the changes will ensure patients receive the very best emergency treatment in a way that is already normal practice in much of the country, including Kent and Surrey.

The local ambulance service is very clear that it is safer for people to travel further to reach a specialist centre, whatever time of day or night.

Ambulances in Sussex are now better equipped to communicate with hospitals from the moment they are on the scene, sending in ECG readings and receiving advice on where to take the patient.

If patients are unstable in any way they will be taken to the nearest A&E where they can be stabilised prior to transfer.

This is about life saving treatment – called primary percutaneous coronary intervention (pPCI) – recommended for STEMI heart attacks. It is not about the much wider range of cardiology services offered at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

The pPCI service currently alternates weekly between Eastbourne and Hastings. Running the service from one site would allow for better outcomes for patients. Overwhelming national evidence shows a pPCI service needs to be carried out in centres with a sufficiently high number of patients.

For the best chance of survival patients need to receive pPCI within 150 minutes of experiencing a STEMI heart attack. In Sussex, the plan is for pPCI to be delivered within 120 minutes.

Dr Andrew Foulkes

Joint medical director, NHS Sussex, and GP