With February nominated as National Heart Month, Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust consultant cardiologist Dr Paul Woodmansey talks about heart health and treatment advances.
When I first became a doctor 26 years ago, the mainstay of treatment for heart attacks was morphine and bed rest, and people were just beginning to suggest a role for aspirin.
Since that time I have witnessed a revolution in the management of heart disease.
I was appointed as a consultant cardiologist in 1995 the same year the Governbyment set a target to reduce mortality rates from all cardiovascular disease (CVD) in England by 2009-11 by at least 40 per cent in people under 75 years.
Remarkably by 2010, this target had been achieved. In South Staffordshire, the rate fell by 61.7 per cent. It is thought that this extraordinary accomplishment was due to the combination of a reduction in risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, combined with better treatments and drugs.
Locally, a major improvement in the treatment of cardiac conditions has been in the provision of quicker and easier access to cardiac services.
For a period after I arrived at Mid Staffs, people were still waiting over two years from GP referral to cardiac surgery. We now have a clinic seeing patients within two weeks of a suspected diagnosis of angina and a rapid process of further investigation and treatment if required.
There is much discussion about networking between smaller hospitals and larger centres.
In the Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospital cardiology department we have always embraced the ideal of giving excellent local services with seamless referral to major centres for more complex procedures.
The past 17 years has seen the expansion of the department with increased staff at all levels, the development of a comprehensive pacemaker service, the opening of a cardiac catheter facility and the introduction of the first regular cardiac CT service in Staffordshire and Shropshire.
At the same time, our patients can benefit from cutting edge technology through well-established links to larger hospital departments in Stoke, Wolverhampton and in some cases, Birmingham and London.