Heart service for Derry could save many lives

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Investment in a new radical new shake-up of emergency cardiac care at Altnagelvin Hospital has been agreed upon.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust Board rubber-stamped funding towards a new Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (pPCI) service at the Derry hospital, which is now expected to be open by September 2014.

The new facility is aimed at reducing death rates arising from heart attacks.

The business case for the new service looked at various options to support the establishment of such a service for the western half of Northern Ireland.

The Trust had asked for funding to develop a second cath lab at Altnagelvin to enable it to deliver these services with the correct levels of staffing, expertise and facilities.

Under the 2011-15 Programme for Government there was a commitment to expand catherisation laboratory capacity by 2015 andto improve access to intervention and treatment and to develop a pPCI service model, to address growing demand.

Both the Western and Belfast Trusts were tasked with developing two 24/7 service for heart attack patients at the Royal and Altnagelvin and to increase scheduled cardiac capacity to around 105 sessions per week by late 2013.

A further review shows that the service is likely to need further expansion to around 120-125 weekly sessions by 2015/16.

Constraints outlined in the business case proposal include receiving recurrent funding from the Health and Social Care Board in a timely manner to allow it to recruit and train adequate skilled staff for all disciplines “to ensure the delivery of a high quality safe service”.

There will also have to be adequate hospital beds and adequate training and upskilling of staff.

The preferred option has been identified as a pPCI at Altnagelvin with brady pacing service, while the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen will have a Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance unit.

To proceed with the preferred option an investment of £1.588m in additional annual revenue costs was agreed to at this month’s meeting, with a one-off £98,316 to facilitate the training of nursing and radiography staff.

Trust chief executive Elaine Way said the investment was a “wonderful story”, while chairman Gerard Guckian went further, stating that this was “one of the most important stories of the recent history of the Trust”.

He added: “This is transformational, this is something people on the street can touch and really feel the benefit of.”

In answer to a question from non-executive board member Niall Birthistle, Trust bosses confirmed there may be the potential for cross-border usage of the new services, both at Altnagelvin and the South West Acute.