NHS charity drives campaign to build £66k mobile scanner van for heart patients in North Wales

AWYR LAS (Blue Sky) is driving a campaign to build a revolutionary mobile scanning vehicle for cardiac patients in rural communities.

The North Wales NHS charity is calling on the public to help raise £66,000 towards the appeal as part of this year’s popular NHS Big Tea event.

The Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle will be fitted with advanced technology, allowing clinicians to journey to vulnerable patients so they can diagnose and perform assessments remotely.

This innovative approach will save Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) vital resources, clinic space and reduce waiting times as people will be seen outside their homes, in GP surgeries and hospital car parks within their community rather than having to attend medical sites in person.

The idea was proposed by Advanced Cardiac Physiologists Liana Shirley and Hannah Jones, who visited more than 80 patients across North Wales during the first Coronavirus lockdown.

With the number of people being admitted to hospital due to heart failure rising by more than 30% in the last five years, Liana says echocardiography services are needed more than ever before and hopes people will support Awyr Las in raising vital funds for the vehicle.

“When the pandemic struck last year and outpatient clinics were forced to close it quickly became clear we would have to cancel our service and watch waiting lists grow, or adapt and find a solution,” said Liana.

“That is when we started doing home visits, journeying to all parts of North Wales in our cars with portable scanners and all the equipment we needed to carry out examinations and echocardiograms in full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

“There were challenges – we were often perched on furniture, the lighting was not great and the environment unsuitable for medical assessments – but it was a necessity, and the feedback we received from patients was entirely positive.

“But it was never going to be sustainable long-term, and that’s when we came up with the idea for the Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle, supported by clinical lead, Graham Thomas GP.”

Hannah added: “Half of the patients we visited were diagnosed with some form of heart failure, and at least 10 of them would have been admitted to hospital. As each hospital admission costs around £4,000 we saved the NHS tens of thousands of pounds by seeing these people in their own homes.

“We are the only team in Wales doing this and to our knowledge there is no other Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle in the UK, so this is a game-changer.”

A new Peugeot Boxer light commercial van has been sourced by a bespoke vehicle manufacturing company and will be converted into a remote medical unit complete with portable scanner, a computer desk, sink and cleaning facilities and an electric adjustable bed.

From Holyhead to Hope, Liana and Hannah will soon be able to visit the most vulnerable in society, saving time and money for the health board, and, most importantly, many lives.

“Patients were so relieved they could still access this service despite COVID-19, that they could still have an echocardiogram without entering a hospital due to fear of contracting the Coronavirus,” said Hannah.

“They were more comfortable and relaxed, so it’s vital we continue to operate in the community – with this purpose-built vehicle we can do that.”

Liana added: “This is a service that affects everyone, so we would be grateful for any support as part of the NHS Big Tea appeal.”

Awyr Las is encouraging the public to join the nation’s biggest tea break and be part of a national outpouring of thanks while raising money for the incredible NHS workers who have been there for the nation over the last year. Everyone can take part by raising a mug or holding their own virtual or physical tea party on July 5.

Kirsty Thomson, Deputy Chair of NHS Charities Together and Head of Fundraising for Awyr Las, said: “After so many months of isolation for many, The NHS Big Tea is a chance for everyone to join up with friends, family and neighbours, for communities to come together and thank NHS staff and each other for everything they have done over the past year.

“We hope people will host their own events and help us meet the cost of the Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle, a service that will be there for people across the region and have a major impact for years to come.”

Over the last 10 years, Awyr Las has received more than £25m in donations. That support has helped pay for state-of-the-art equipment and new facilities, staff training, world-class research, special projects, additional services and extra patient comforts which are over and above what NHS funding can provide.

To raise funds for the Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle and sign up for the NHS Big Tea event, visit the website: www.awyrlas.org.uk/big-tea