10,000 in town battling heart disease

Consultant cardiologist at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Justin Carter.
Consultant cardiologist at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Justin Carter.

ONE in 10 people in Hartlepool are battling potentially fatal heart disease.

Around 10,000 people in the town are suffering with heart and circulatory disease, and health chiefs say this is down to people’s lifestyles and family medical history.

And the situation is so serious that hospital bosses are investing in “the world’s most advanced” heart scanner to help detect the life-threatening illness at its earliest stages.

There have also been three new heart doctors appointed at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, as well as new chest and heart tests, in a bid to tackle the ticking time bomb.

Today, following the release of the shocking statistics from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), consultant cardiologist at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Justin Carter, said: “We recognise that heart disease and circulatory disease pose a serious threat to the health of our local communities in Hartlepool and the surrounding area.

“Cardiac disease is a killer but to help combat it the trust is making significant investment in developing and improving cardiac care.

“We have recently appointed three new consultant cardiologists to work across our two sites at the University Hospital of North Tees and the recently opened cardiac investigations unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

“The unit carries out heart tests and runs rapid access chest pain clinics so that patients referred by their GP can be seen as soon as possible.

“We have invested in a state of the art stress echocardiography service which will help doctors diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, giving accurate assessments, so patient’s heart problems can be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

“Stress echocardiograms are an accurate way of identifying whether patients with chest pain have significant heart problems and minimises the need to use tests that involve exposure to radiation or x rays.

“We are also waiting delivery of the world’s most advanced cardiac CT scanner which gives a three dimensional picture of the heart to help us to identify heart disease in patients at an early stage.

“We have a network of cardiac specialist nurses working in the community to help identify patients who may be at risk from heart or circulatory disease.”

Chris Briddon, BHF nurse practitioner, for Hartlepool Primary Care Trust, said Hartlepool has a particular problem with people dying much younger than in other parts of the country.

“That’s down to life-style choices and a lot of heart disease runs in families and we’ve got a lot of families like that in Hartlepool,” she said.

“There is a lot of excellent work being done and this has helped to reduce death rates in Hartlepool by over 50 per cent. There is obviously more that needs to be done though.”

She is currently helping to deliver a programme to seven to 14-year-olds in schools called Younger and Wiser which informs them about caring for the heart and arming them with future knowledge.

Stephen Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum, agreed that arming youngsters with knowledge is essential, at-risk people need to be targeted to look at potential life-style changes, and a better support network and offering healthy food alternatives on a budget needs to be available.”

The British Heart Foundation released the shocking statistics, which also revealed that an estimated 280,000 people in the North East are living with the condition, including 18,000 sufferers in Stockton, 14,000 in Middlesbrough, 15,000 in Redcar and Cleveland, 10,000 in Darlington and 59,000 in County Durham.