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North Cumbria’s £3.4m new heart labs officially opened

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson has officially opened north Cumbria Heart Centre’s new laboratories at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

The labs provide state of the art equipment and facilities for investigations and treatment for patients suspected of having a heart attack or heart conditions.

They are an investment of £3.4m and have been described as a complete game changer for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust. Before there was only one ageing lab and planned procedures had to be postponed if an emergency patient came in.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Justin Barclay said: “These two labs are, not just state of the art with the best equipment we could ask for, they mean that we will be able to carry our planned procedures simultaneously with emergency procedures.”

The Trust was extremely honoured that Professor Sir Liam Donaldson agreed to come and undertake the official opening. Sir Liam is the former chief medical officer for England and the current chair of the North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care Board.

Sir Liam spent time chatting to staff and said he felt the new labs were greatly needed and he was thrilled to see it open, adding that these procedures are both lifesaving and life changing.

Former patient and fellow colleague of the Heart Centre staff, Viv English, gave an emotional speech about the difference that the team had made after her heart attack some years ago and more recently for her husband. She said:

“I have worked in cardiology for 23 years and I have experienced many changes over that time, now thankfully we now have this lifesaving service PCI lab. The labs have brought an amazing service to the areas for staff patients and their families

“As a [heart attack] patient myself I sadly had a bad experience myself in a foreign country while I was on holiday but thanks to the wonderful NHS and the team in Carlisle they treated me with so much care providing me with the correct treatment and aftercare and I will be eternally grateful.

“My husband suffered an MI (heart attack) six months ago out of the blue. Fit and well we thought the team were amazing treating us as a family with care and support. My husband was taken to the labs and had a stent fitted. He is now back in the mountain on his bike living life to the full.

“Thank you to team cardiology for saving my husband, a dad and a son. I understand how patients and loved ones are worried and anxious. This service saves and has saved so many lives, I am grateful to be part of this team we will and can provide people the chance to get urgent lifesaving treatment that is needed and give help and support and follow up care.

“Thank you once again to the wonderful cardiologists lab staff nurses rehab and cardiology teams you’re simply the best.”

The new labs and the Heart Centre is a state of the art centre for the whole of north Cumbria making sure those suspected of heart attack get timely expert help.

Estelle Hodges, Ward Manager at the Coronary Care Unit at West Cumberland Hospital added: “Having this new facility at the Cumberland Infirmary will make such a difference to the people of west Cumbria. We work closely with the Heart Centre to ensure that patients with heart conditions, or are suspected of having a heart attack are cared for in a timely and professional way. This facility will ultimately improve patient flow, and therefore patient experience.”

Doctor Louise Buchanan, a consultant cardiologist and medical director said:

“To get here there was lots and lots of challenges and it’s important for me to say thank you to each and every one of the staff because it has been difficult to keep running our services while the building work has been taking place.

So it’s now time to look to the future and this is a real step change to the quality and the resilience that we can provide patients.”

Sir Liam talked about the advances in medical care for heart attack patient in his own professional career

“I can remember when I was a young medical student and a young doctor in the early 1970s, having a heart attack then was a terrifying experience not just because of the condition and the pain and distress but because basically little could be done for it.

“We now see the situation where people’s lives are saved and we would no longer walk onto a coronary ward where half of the patients feel doomed. The beauty of being able to describe it is that it has been a development that has been in one person’s professional lifetime and in all other branches of medicine and healthcare things like that are happening.

“This is a wonderful facility I understand [the previous single lab] was in a porta cabin and around 7-8000 patients were treated in the portacabin. The new labs much are nicer. This area and environment is a place of light now. That light is bringing life and survival and good times to the people who can walk away from here cured.”


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