ST GEORGE’S Healthcare NHS Trust has been named the official heart attack centre for South West London by paramedics.

A bulletin sent to London Ambulance staff on 22 March named St George’s as one of nine heart attack centres in the capital.

Other heart attack centres include King’s College Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital.

The hospital’s Director of Cardiac Catheterisation, cardiologist Dr Stephen Brecker, welcomed the Trust’s new status:

“St George’s is the main provider of cardiothoracic services in the region and has a strong reputation for the quality and speed of its clinical care.

“While we have had unofficial heart attack centre status for several months now, everyone in the team is delighted that we have been awarded official recognition for the emergency care we provide.”

The teaching hospital treats nearly 1500 heart attack patients every year, and in 2005 became the fourth hospital in London to launch a 24-hour emergency angioplasty service.

An angioplasty involves inserting a small balloon at the end of a catheter tube via an artery in the groin or arm up to the blocked artery that caused the heart attack. The balloon is then inflated and removed, leaving in place a ‘stent’ – a rigid support which squashes the fatty deposit blocking the artery, allowing blood to flow more easily.

Research shows the procedure, which is minimally invasive, is more clinically effective than thrombolytic medication – the alternative form of treatment offered by most Accident and Emergency departments in the country – which dissolves blood clots in the arteries to restore blood flow to the heart.

Thrombolysis is ineffective for up to a third of patients while a quarter of those who are given the drugs go on to suffer another heart attack.

The medication must also be given within an hour of a heart attack to be effective.

Primary angioplasties however result in shorter hospital stays and fewer complications.

The hospital is expected to perform around 250 primary angioplasties this year.