Cardiology Assessment Unit

The Cardiac Assessment Unit (CAU) is a special unit to assess and treat patients with life-threatening heart conditions based in the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex. This unit treats patients with chest pain, heart attacks, palpitations (fast heart rate), faints and shortness of breath. Patients can self-present or be referred from GPs or other hospital departments.

The unit is staffed by nurses who are experienced in cardiology, all of whom have been trained in Advanced Life Support. Between them they manage to discharge 90 per cent of patients who might otherwise have to go to Accident and Emergency Departments in the region of 30 miles away. The remainder of patients are stabilised and then transferred to the South West Acute Hospital or Altnagelvin Cardiology Units or other hospitals within the province for definitive medical care requiring inpatient admission. The Cardiac Assessment Unit also manages patients requiring elective DC cardioversion.

This is a procedure whereby patients with an irregular heart rate get an elective electric shock to their heart to try to make it regular again.  The unit is now supporting other Western Trust hospitals by arranging for patients from Enniskillen, Strabane and Foyle to attend the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex for this procedure.

The CAU service is efficient for patients as the majority attending stay less than five hours. There are obvious advantages in terms of patients and GPs being able to access the service in one facility. It allows prompt and timely treatment of patients requiring urgent therapy, such as in the event of a heart attack, with treatment initiated in Omagh and further management, such as angiography, performed in Altnagelvin.

There is a lead nurse at all times who will have considerable experience in cardiology. Consultant cardiologists are heavily involved in decision-making regarding management of the patients attending the unit. There are clear pathways regarding assessment of presenting patients. There is a consultant cardiologist available on the Omagh Hospital site during normal working hours, with a consultant on-call for advice at all times.

The Western Trust, over the last ten years has already enhanced these services with the provision of the rapid access chest pain service and CT coronary angiography service. We provide outpatient clinics in cardiology, a wide range of cardiac investigations, an inherited cardiac diseases service and more recently have been implanting loop recorders in patients as the site for the whole of the Western Trust.

The nurses within the CAU also lead the cardiac arrest team for the hospital.