3 January 2019

Seventy-one heart attack patients from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area have already benefitted from quicker, safer treatment as part of a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) project to improve cardiology services across the region. 

Patients with high-risk NSTEMI – a type of heart attack caused by a severely narrowed artery – are now being transferred directly by ambulance to specialists at Royal Papworth Hospital for treatment within 24 hours, rather than being admitted to an acute hospital like Addenbrooke’s or Hinchingbrooke first. 

This offers huge benefits to patients, as research and guidelines state that high-risk patients achieve better outcomes if they receive treatment to unblock the heart’s blood supply within 24 hours. Since the new ‘Rapid NSTEMI’ pathway was launched in September, ninety-four per cent of patients have received treatment within 24 hours.

NHS organisations across the region – including Cambridge University Hospitals, North West Anglia Foundation Trust, Royal Papworth Hospital and the East of England Ambulance Trust – have worked together to deliver the project, which will also lead to a wide range of efficiencies in the wider healthcare system. Transferring patients directly to Royal Papworth could save 125 ambulance transfers, 604 days spent in hospital and £238,000 in just one year – helping to ease pressure on the NHS across the region. 

Richard Wreghitt-Jones, 36, from Sawston, was the first patient to benefit from the new pathway after being transferred to Royal Papworth with severe chest pains.

He had been in the shower when the pain started, and when painkillers made no difference, his wife called 111. Richard was taken in an ambulance to the Cardiology High Dependency Unit at Royal Papworth just after 9.30am on a Monday morning and was taken in for his procedure at 3.30pm that day. 

“I was impressed with how quick and efficient it all was,” said Richard. "Staff were very good at explaining what was happening and I felt very well looked after."

Dr Will Davies, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Royal Papworth Hospital, said: “The new pathway for heart attack patients is a great example of NHS Trusts working together to improve efficiency and enhance the patient experience. It is the right thing to do for so many reasons – offering improved outcomes for patients and reducing their time in hospital, as well as delivering significant savings to the NHS. It is fantastic to see patients already benefitting from quicker treatment, and we hope the new pathway will help to ease pressure on local NHS services this winter.”

Ashley Richardson, Clinical Lead for East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Feedback from our staff has been very positive as it gives our clinicians the ability to assess patients with NSTEMI at the scene and make a decision that delivers rapid and expert care, improving their long-term outcomes.

“This is a fantastic example of how health providers are working together for the benefit of patients, fostering strong working relationships between health providers and opening doors to further collaboration and the sharing of expertise.  We look forward to continuing to access this pathway at Royal Papworth Hospital, and as the main provider of prehospital emergency care in the East of England, we are hoping to work with other specialist cardiac care centres to mirror and replicate this service across the region.”

Ashley Shaw, Medical Director at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We were very happy to support this initiative since not only is it a win-win situation for patients and the NHS, but it saves money that can be ploughed into other vital services. It is another great example of partnership working in Cambridgeshire.”

In the future, the new pathway could be extended to other parts of East Anglia to benefit hundreds more patients in the region.