HEALTH chiefs in Gwent will seek to increase capacity for carrying out heart tests in the area’s hospitals, to help reduce waiting times and transfer more work from Cardiff.

They hope to increase cardiac catheter laboratory capacity for Gwent patients, to provide more time for procedures such as angiography, pacing, and angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI).

The proposal is one of a range of measures contained in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s heart disease delivery plan, which details how it proposes to provide services to heart patients in the next three years.

The cardiac catheter lab at the Royal Gwent Hospital has been the centrepiece of the area’s cardiology services, with sustained support over 30 years from the Royal Gwent and St Woolos Hospitals Cardiology Fund.

The lab was set up with the help of six-figure backing from the fund in 2000, and a dedicated cardiology unit was established there in 2005.

PCI, a treatment to widen narrowed coronary arteries, began to be provided there in 2010. Previously, Gwent patients requiring this would have to go to Cardiff.

Additional catheter lab capacity would help reduce waiting times for this and other procedures, but it could also provide scope to repatriate complex device therapy from Cardiff.

A second cardiac catheter lab is proposed at the Specialist and Critical Care Centre planned for Gwent. But this will not open until 2018/19 and in the mean time, capacity issues are further constrained because Nevill Hall Hospital does not have a dedicated cardiac catheter lab.

The plan also proposes the provision of specialist cardiology advice within 24 hours for patients. admitted to hospital with suspected heart disease.