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Third specialist cardiology lab to open in May

The new cardiology lab at Derriford Hospital

Waiting times for patients needing cardiology diagnosis and treatment will fall with the opening of a third specialist lab in the grounds of Derriford Hospital.

Currently, there are two cardiac catheterisation (cath) labs for cardiology patients at the hospital. This does not give sufficient space to see and treat all the patients needing planned procedures as well as those patients coming in as emergencies.

Patients are currently having to wait 40 weeks for angiogram tests and up to 52 weeks for artery-widening treatment, called angioplasty.

In a bid to secure extra capacity to treat patients in a timely way, Regent’s Park Healthcare (RPH), a private provider of cardiology services, is building a specialist centre at the back of the hospital, located just behind the South West Cardiothoracic Centre’s Terence Lewis building.

In a partnership arrangement, the new centre will offer services for NHS patients three days per week initially. It will be staffed by RPH cath lab and recover staff with our NHS consultants carrying out the procedures. A total of 21 new jobs will be created. Similar cardiology public-private partnerships are running elsewhere in the country but in most areas, this work is outsourced to an off-site facility. In Plymouth, the NHS will retain control, using a private facility situated on an NHS site. This builds on Plymouth being a centre of excellence for cardiothoracic services.

Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Director, Dr Venkatesan Suresh said: “We will start treating patients in the new facility in May 2019 and we expect to treat around 1,000 NHS patients there each year.

“Patients seen will be those requiring basic angiograms and straight-forward, day-case Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI). An angiogram is a procedure that allows us to look inside a person’s coronary arteries using a catheter (a small, thin, flexible tube).

“PCI is a procedure we use to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries (the main blood vessels supplying the heart). A short wire-mesh tube, called a stent, is inserted into the artery and left in place permanently to allow blood to flow more freely.”

Caroline Dawe, Manager for Medicine, explained: “This is good news for patients because they will get seen more quickly. We hope to cut waiting lists from 180 people currently waiting for angiogram tests to zero by November 2019, and for artery-widening procedures to within the 18 week standard for treatment times. The creation of a third specialist lab will also allow our existing cath labs to undertake work on patients with more complex needs, not just from Plymouth but also from Cornwall.

“This is also good news for colleagues as it will help us retain medical staff. Clinicians with an active interest in research need protected capacity to undertake their research and this third lab helps provide that.

“We have worked hard with RPH to make this happen and we would also like to thank local charity Heartswell for their input into the conception of this plan and their continued support.”

Dr Anil Ohri, Chief Executive of RPH, said: “To be working in partnership with University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP) and their hugely talented and committed staff is an immense privilege and honour for our company. The new cardiology centre, to be called ‘Peninsula Heart Clinic’ is nearly finished and will consist of a cardiac catheterisation suite with eight beds, three of which will have ensuite bathrooms, and a ‘fast-track’ radial lounge consisting of five seated recovery bays. There will also be an outpatient suite comprising six consultation rooms and providing outpatient investigations such as echocardiography, ambulatory cardiac monitoring and electrocardiograms.”

He added: “Our burning ambition is to leverage our core organisational capabilities to lower waiting times for people with heart disease, to deliver excellent healthcare at reduced cost, and to work with UHP to improving patient experience and clinical outcomes.”

Watch a video below.

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