01/02/2021 | Press releases

Drive-through services launched for heart patients

Pacemaker patients and people needing their heart monitored will soon be able to benefit from new drive-through services.

People with pacemakers need to have their device checked regularly, usually at least once a year, but due to restrictions because of Coronavirus (COVID-19), it has been difficult to see patients face-to-face.

Similar difficulties have occurred for those needing short-term heart monitors.

So clinicians at ESNEFT are launching innovative drive-through services.

The pacemaker drive-through service will aim to be up and running by the end of February for patients living in the Ipswich area. Patients will be able to drive to Ipswich Hospital, park in a bay then have one of the cardiac physiologists download information from their pacemaker through their car window.

The heart monitor service is initially being set up for those in the Colchester side of the patch, launching from Clacton Hospital initially.

Cardiologist carrying out drive-through pacemaker check 2
Cardiologist carrying out drive-through pacemaker check

Nicola Chalk, Head of Devices (Cardiology), has set up the pacemaker service with Sam Clarke, Head of Department. Nicola said: “Due to the pandemic we’ve recently only been able to offer a high proportion of our patients telephone consultations, so we’re really excited we can launch this service. We are one of only six hospitals in the country trialling check-ups in this way and with thousands of patients in the area who have a pacemaker fitted it will be a really valuable service we can offer.”

Pacemakers need regular checks to see ensure they are functioning appropriately. As well as preventing slow heart rhythms pacemakers can also store information so it can be viewed and assessed at a later date. This information allows us to check the battery life, the lead status and other useful diagnostics.

The drive-through service is called Carelink Express and most Medtronic/Vitatron pacemakers are compatible with the “Smart Sync” software which is used to download patient devices. Anyone due a check-up who this will be suitable for will be contacted by the Trust.

The portable header that will be used to scan a patient’s pacemaker
The portable header that will be used to scan a patient’s pacemaker

Nicola added: “One of our physiologists will pass the header to the patient in their car where and this will be used to download the information the hospital needs, then, this information will link through to secure website for the Cardiology team to review.”

“The drive-through appointment will be quick and we’re hoping to be able to tell the person the results that day if there are any issues, and if everything is fine, then they won’t need to hear from us, until their next scheduled appointment.”

To ensure the check is Coronavirus (COVID-19) compliant, the clinician will be in the required personal protective clothing (PPE) and the header will be cleaned between each patient and placed in a new polythene bag for each patient.

The trial is currently being launched in Ipswich.

Heart monitor

The heart monitor drive-through service will work in a similar way. Patients will be able to drive to Clacton Hospital, park in a designated bay and then given the machine and instructions detailing how to attach the monitor to themselves to record their heart patterns.

Sharon Archer, Head of Cardio-Respiratory
Sharon Archer, Head of Cardio-Respiratory

Sharon Archer, Head of Cardio-Respiratory, said: “When patients are referred for issues relating to their heart, maybe they’ve been feeling dizzy or have passed out, they’re often given a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours or a few days to see what is going on.

“The checks provide important diagnostic information and we’re pleased adapting our service in this way will ensure everyone who needs a heart monitor can do so safely.”

The heart monitor drive-through service is launching from Clacton Hospital initially before being rolled out further afield.

Anyone who is able to have their pacemaker checked by the service and is due their routine appointment will be contacted in the following weeks.

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