After a three-year battle, Archant Suffolk’s Ipswich Star took out its front page with news that work has started on a dedicated heart unit for the people of Suffolk.
Posted on: 30 July 2012 07:47
At the culmination of what editor Nigel Pickover called “gutsy, hard-nosed and determined” campaigning, building work started on Wednesday (July 25) on a new state-of-the-art cardiac centre at Ipswich Hospital.
The Ipswich Star first launched the Have a Heart appeal in 2009 after uncovering controversial plans to establish three regional cardiac centres – at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridgeshire, and Basildon in Essex.
The move meant patients needing emergency heart care as well as routine procedures were forced to travel out of the county for treatment.
Backed by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, Heartbeat East Suffolk and readers who raised around £30,000, The Star secured a review of the proposals by heart tsar Professor Roger Boyle.
In December 2010 he recommended that Ipswich Hospital should have a non-emergency heart centre but not the emergency unit.
Then in February The Star revealed the Department of Health had granted the hospital £5 million to pay for the building of the new centre after NHS Midlands and East put in a bid for the funding. The new centre at the Heath Road trust, which is set to open next year, will allow patients who need planned coronary angioplasty – known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) – to be treated in Ipswich.
The operation involves narrowed arteries being widened in patients who are at risk of suffering a heart attack.
Star editor, Nigel Pickover, said: “When we started our campaign, we were aghast that Suffolk was being left without emergency heart attack cover – and the future for cardiology services in general looked bleak.
Our view was that Ipswich was being left exposed – and that people’s lives may be lost because of decisions taken by NHS bureaucrats many miles away. So we fought and fought again and now have work starting on work on the new elective heart surgery unit. It just goes to shoes what a campaigning newspaper can do for its community. And our fight will continue”.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Paul Venables said: “Patients will no longer have to travel to a regional centre for this treatment which will make a real difference to both them and their families. Coupled with some of the other great service improvements going on in cardiology, it’s a great time to be part of the team.”
From its launch, MP Ben Gummer, who was contesting the Ipswich parliamentary seat at the time, has backed The Star’s Have a Heart appeal.
He said: “Today is a day of pride for me and for Ipswich. The Star’s campaign has been going for three years and so to see work starting is really exciting.
“There was never any guarantee that this would happen, which is why we had to fight so hard and why it was so important. It was quite emotional to be there and see it all become a reality.”
Ann Tate, chair of the trust, said the new development will allow the cardiac team to “build upon the excellent work already being delivered”.
“We are confident that we now have the foundation for the kind of service which patients in our area will need into the future,” she said.
Emergency patients will continue to receive care at one of the three regional centres for primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI).
Tony Ramsey, chair of the Ipswich Hospital User Group, added: “There has been huge community support for this centre which shows how much it means to local people to have this service closer to home.”
The new centre will be situated at what was formerly the Foxhall Unit. Building firm Barnes Construction is responsible for bringing the new centre to life and work is expected to finish next February.