At the heart of the matter with chest pain

TWENTY patients a week are treated at a specialist chest pain clinic in Hartlepool.

They often arrive with trepidation and worry. They leave with peace of mind and a much better chance of a brighter future, says Deborah De Garis who follows their journey.

For eight years, Deborah has worked as a specialist in the cardiac field at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

She helps people who are suspected to have angina from their arrival to watching them smile after treatment or surgery.

“I see the same faces and I see their journey,” said Deborah.

“I see them come out of it at the end, sometimes with a heart bypass or a stent, and I see that they are feeling so much better for it.”

Deborah and her colleague, Melloney Threlkeld, run the rapid access chest pain clinic at the hospital which gets 21 referrals a week from GPs.

It is their job to perform the tests which will decide whether patients have angina.

Their work has become a lot easier in the last fortnight thanks to the arrival of an electronic appointments system called Choose and Book. It means GPs can directly book patients into the system online – straight on to the clinic’s list.

Much of the work of the unit helps the patient feel at ease, from the booking system which ensures they are seen within two weeks of visiting their doctor with a chest pain, to the process which clicks into place once the patients arrives at hospital.

As soon as they arrive at hospital, an angiogram will help to check how well a patient’s heart is working.

Next comes a Myocardial Perfusion Scan (MPS) which allows doctors to see how well blood is reaching the heart muscle through the coronary arteries.

Both will determine whether the patient needs any one of four different treatments.

Two of those are a heart bypass, or a coronary stent (where a tube is placed in the coronary arteries that supply the heart). If either of these are diagnosed, the patient is booked for treatment at the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

The other two possibilities are tablets – or news that the patient does not have angina.

Whatever the outcome, Deborah’s joy comes from seeing the patient when they come back for rehab clinics,

“When you see people who are in rehab, they finally realise how ill they were and suddenly they feel so much better,” she said.

l THREE weeks of chest pains were the spur for Richard Hall to get help.

The 75-year-old father of two went to his GP worrying about his condition.

Within a week, he had undergone an angiogram at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and was due to see a specialist today for further tests to check if he had angina.

Regardless of the results, the Shotton Colliery resident says he is a lot more at ease now after meeting the team at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Richard is a former miner at Easington pit who also had work on building sites, in a dairy, as an ICI civil engineer and then had his own grass-cutting business.

He said: “It was a shock to have a problem like this, but I am coming in and getting it sorted out.

“I had gone to my doctors to say I was getting pains in my chest. The GP said he would have to send me to hospital. I only came in a week ago and the service has been really good.

“It is the first time I have been in since I had a stroke quite a few years ago, but they have certainly put me at ease.”