We have started an investigation looking at the emergency response to heart attack across the NHS in England.

There are different types of heart attack and this investigation looks at the most serious type – ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). STEMI is what most people think of when they hear the term ‘heart attack’.

A person suffering from a heart attack (STEMI) requires a time critical response to ensure they receive the most appropriate medical intervention.

STEMI occurs when a clot forms in the blood vessel which serves the heart with oxygenated blood. The preferred treatment option for STEMI is primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI). This is where a stent (wire mesh tube) is inserted into a blocked blood vessel in the heart, opening it up and re-establishing and maintaining blood flow. If the clot is not removed or by-passed there is potential for further damage to the heart muscle or the patient having another heart attack.

Any delay in responding to a patient, or in transporting them to hospital, increases the risk of suffering additional harm.

Reference event

We started this investigation after a patient notified us of a delay in an ambulance attending him after suffering a heart attack (STEMI).

Investigation summary

This investigation will:

  • Look at the systemic safety issues relating to the emergency response to heart attack.
  • Examine treatment options available for patients who have suffered a heart attack (specifically STEMI).
  • Consider other systemic safety issues identified during the investigation.

Safety recommendations

As part of our investigation report we may make safety recommendations to the appropriate national bodies in order to improve patient safety.

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