A team which provides a service for thousands of Morriston Hospital patients is keeping up its reputation for high quality and innovation.
Cardiac ultrasound scanning – echocardiography or simply echo – is the most frequent specialist cardiac investigation.
Working from only three small rooms, the Morriston echo team performs more than 8,000 of these scans every year.
In 2007 it became the first department in the UK to obtain departmental accreditation from the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE) when it introduced exacting new rules.
That accreditation has to be renewed every five years. Morriston achieved this in 2012 and again this year – only this time it also received advanced accreditation for specialist echocardiography.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Adrian Ionescu said:
“This is in recognition of the standard and the complexity of the work we do here.
“It’s confirming and certifying that we do more than the usual standard, we do some special modalities that are not available everywhere in Wales or within the UK.
“Special thanks to our technical lead, Ailsa Wallis, whose indefatigable, energetic approach was instrumental for the achievement of this landmark objective.”
An echo is an ultrasound scan which provides clinicians with information about the size, shape and function of the heart and valves – without any risk to the patient.
Most patients will come to the echo department, within Morriston Hospital’s Cardiac Centre, but it can also be done at the bedside.
It involves putting a small amount of gel on the patient’s chest, then placing a probe on the chest and obtaining moving images of the heart.
A routine complete echo scan takes 40-45 minutes to complete.
Dr Ionescu said:
“Apart from cardiology we are used extensively by every other specialty.
“Any clinician – not just a cardiologist – who sees a patient, in hospital or as an outpatient, and feels there may be a problem with the heart, can refer them for an echo.”
The echo department has always been at the forefront of innovation.
In 2005 it was the first in Wales to use a contrast agent to image the heart.
Five years ago it became the first department in Wales, and one of just a few in the UK, to have contrast administered by specialist physiologists rather than doctors.
Now it has become one of the relatively few departments in the UK to receive advanced accreditation.
This followed a visit from a team of BSE inspectors earlier this year which led them to describing it as an ‘excellent’ department.
Dr Ionescu said:
“The inspection was very rigorous. They had a detailed discussion with us about our processes, they assessed the quality of our equipment, the way we train our staff, quality control and more.
“It’s not just a courtesy visit with a pat on the back. It’s quite thorough. You feel under the microscope.”
Head of echo Ailsa Wallis said:
“Achieving this accreditation has lifted everybody’s spirits.
“This is recognition of all the hard work the whole echo team has done over the last 10 years and all the fantastic achievements the staff have made.
“It’s not just recognition for us as a department but also for Morriston Hospital and for ABMU Health Board.
“We were the first in Wales to get departmental accreditation and to have advanced reaccreditation 10 years later is quite a landmark achievement. We’re all very excited about it.”