June 27, 2008

Heart Care Variations Confirmed

A NEW treatment for people suffering heart attacks should be available more widely across the country, campaigners said yesterday.

Latest figures show one in five patients receive primary angioplasty - where a small balloon is inserted into the artery and a device put in place to keep it open and the blood flowing - which is now regarded as the gold standard treatment for the condition, improving outcomes and allowing victims to leave hospital more quickly.

But a survey across England and Wales shows wide regional variations in the availability of the procedure which is superseding the use of clot-busting drugs which are now administered by paramedics.

There was a 42 per cent increase in patients receiving primary angioplasty in 2007-8 but in some parts very few people were given the procedure.

Mike Knapton, associate medical director of prevention and care at the British Heart Foundation, has called for the inequalities in treatment across England and Wales to be addressed.

In the Trent cardiac network, which covers South Yorkshire, only two patients were given primary angioplasty and only 22 patients - six per cent of the total - were dealt with in North and East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire compared to 75 per cent in West Yorkshire.

Heart specialist Clive Weston, who helped carried out the study, said: "The answer to the question why not everybody is getting primary angioplasty is partly practical. We do not yet have enough specialists and enough centres to cover the whole of the UK. Some hospitals provide it only during office hours because they don't have enough specialists to be on call for a continuous rota."

The procedure became available at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital this month.

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