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Trailblazing van to deliver care closer to home

A pioneering heart care van, a ‘first of its kind’ anywhere in the United Kingdom, has hit the roads of north Wales delivering care closer to home. 

The purpose-built van has been kitted out with diagnostics equipment, which will be used to assess patients who have suspected heart failure closer to their homes.

The aim of the brand-new van, that has been funded by the North Wales NHS charity, Awyr Las, is to offer a community-based service to facilitate the care of patients, with the aim of preventing them from having to go into hospital.

“The idea came to me during the Covid pandemic” said Liana Shirley, Advanced Imaging Specialist with the Heart Failure Community Clinics.

“During the Covid crisis we had nowhere to hold clinics, as the beds had been reassigned for Covid patients. Myself and my colleague Hannah had to start doing home visits, where we would have to drag a scanner in full PPE into people’s homes. It was hard, but necessary.

“My husband suggested that our jobs would be made much easier if we had a van that could hold all the necessary equipment that we needed to assess the patient."

After successfully proposing a business plan to the Health Board (BCUHB), with the full support of GP Dr Graham Thomas, the clinical supervisor in Cardiology, funding was secured thanks to generous donations from the community.

The Cardio van is now up and running and will be visiting community hospitals from Anglesey to areas around Wrexham area, then to Dolgellau in the south and east the Llangollen area.

“This vehicle will make such a difference, as from now on we will always have somewhere to see patients, even if we don’t have the space in our normal clinics.

“We can see patients inside their home, or much closer to home, because it is very versatile.

“Without a doubt, this - in conjunction with community bases clinics - is the way forward. This will allow us to keep as many services as possible in the community and to have the flexibility in any environment,” added Liana.

Following an appeal to the public for donations toward the project, Awyr Las received generous contributions, including a sum of £1,000 from the charity Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) which are a part of the North Wales Freemasons Charity.

Bryan George, Chair of TLC said: “This is a case of the nurses being able to take the mountain to Mohammad.  We know that people are concerned about having to wait for hospital appointments. We were more than happy to contribute to something that will alleviate people’s fears and highlight potential problems before they escalate.”

Chief Executive Officer of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Jo Whitehead, said: “We are grateful to Liana and her team for putting patients first during what has been an unprecedented time in our lives. This is a great example of care being provided closer to home. This vehicle will not only allow us to serve patients quickly but also shows how using a different approach to providing services enriches the experience to the patient and gives flexibility to staff in a post-pandemic world.

“Our thanks to everybody who donated to Awyr Las to help make Liana and her team’s dream of having this vehicle a reality. Your contributions really do make a difference.”