New cardiac intensive unit in Wales will save lives by treating patients faster
At a time when press stories about the NHS are likely to focus on staff shortages and hospital closures, it's encouraging to read about the opening of a new £6.6million cardiac unit in Wales, which should result in patients receiving faster treatment, thereby saving lives.
The new extension to the cardiac intensive unit at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, South Wales is due to be completed later this month. Morriston provides a regional service covering the population of mid and South West Wales.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said one of the factors behind longer waiting times in the past had been a lack of beds for people following surgery. Increasing the hospital's critical care beds by four will help reduce waiting times for patients needing surgery and will also cut down patient's need to travel to other medical centres, meaning faster treatment, which could be life-saving.
It has been argued in a range of medicolegal cases that lack of resources and long waiting times have been contributing to the injury, or even death, of many patients in the UK. Visiting the new unit in Swansea last week, the Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said that:
"We have made progress in reducing cardiac waiting times and are now investing to increase capacity in Wales."
Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford, who approved funding for the project, said:
"The NHS has been responding to high demand for cardiac surgery and has addressed some long waiting times by offering treatment outside Wales. We have made progress in reducing waiting times and are now investing to increase capacity in Wales, to increase the number of people who can be treated closer to home."
The action plan for development in the hospital also includes meeting demand and ensuring continuity for cardiac surgical services as well as plans to expand the hospital’s capacity for cardiac surgery. The Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery has ranked the new unit as 6 out of 39 for survival rates, which helps to demonstrate that reducing waiting times can stop injury from occurring.
Tragically, avoidable delays in receiving cardiac treatment can cause catastrophic damage to the patient and their families.
Recently I worked on a case where our client's husband died as a result of a delay in performing an ECG, which led to a delay in him receiving medical treatment in hospital that would have prevented his death. When her husband attended his GP surgery, complaining of symptoms of heart failure, these symptoms were diagnosed as flu, and an ECG was ordered (which would have shown damage to the heart). However the ECG test was booked for the following week, with the surgery citing lack of availability of slots to perform the ECG sooner. Unfortunately, in the interim her husband died as a result of heart failure. Had the GP performed the necessary tests without delay, they would have shown an abnormal heart rhythm and this would have prompted urgent admission into the Hospital's cardiac unit which would have saved the patient's life.
New units like the Morriston's cardiac unit mean more resources, so in a case like this the GP could have referred the patient to his local unit for a same day ECG if the surgery had no capacity. It also means more resources to reduce delays in treatment, and increase the accessibility to treatment for cardiac patients. With new units being opened the NHS is reducing treatment delays and therefore increasing the survival rate of their patients.
By Melanie Penn, Paralegal