PARAMEDICS have been trained to use clot-busting drugs to improve care for heart attack patients.

The procedure, known as thrombolysis, can dissolve a clot in a blocked artery if applied quickly enough.

The treatment is most effective when given soon after the onset of chest pain.

Treating patients before or during their journey to hospital can save valuable time, and minimise the extent of damage to the heart.

Paramedics in Whitby, Malton and Kirkbymoorside have been trained in the procedure.

Mike Shanahan, assistant director of patient services for Tees, East and North Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said speed is essential in the diagnosis of heart attacks.

"We talk about the golden hour which characterises the urgent need for thrombolysis within an hour of the onset of chest pain," he said.

"Due to the rurality of the area, transporting patients to hospital to be thrombolysed can take the patient outside that vital 60 minutes, but now our paramedics can make all the difference by administering the drug by their bedside or in the ambulance en route to hospital."

Ambulances have been equipped with 12-lead Electro-Cardiographs (ECG) which provide paramedics with the information to make a diagnosis and administer the drugs. The information can be transmitted to hospital so equipment and drugs can be ready for the patient's arrival.

Almost half of the paramedics at the three stations have been trained and the remainder will be trained before Christmas.

The ambulance service is also planning a pilot scheme at Whitby Community Hospital in conjunction with Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Primary Care Trust to support access to pre-hospital thrombolysis.