Paramedics in Ceredigion have been given the authority to administer life-saving drugs to heart attack victims - up until now only carried out in hospitals.
Paramedics will administer life-saving drugs to heart attack victims
The paramedics are the first in Wales to be given the right, says the regional health network advising on cardiac services.
They will provide heart patients with the clot-busting thrombolysis drug as part of an initiative to speed up treatment.
Heart attack victims have, what health experts call, a 'golden hour' in which they should receive medical assistance.
Martin Lane, of Mid and South West Wales Cardiac Network, said the move would benefit patients in rural areas.
The network's key functions are to assist the Welsh Assembly Government in setting up a cardiac services' strategy and advising on cardiac policy and issues.
"It's vital heart attack victims receive treatment within an hour," Mr Lane said.
"And this new development will be particularly useful to people in rural areas who often live miles away from their nearest hospital.
"We started this in Ceredigion on Monday and later in the month it will be available in Bridgend and available throughout the rest of south west and mid Wales later in the year."
Mr Lane added: "For every minute a heart attack victim's treatment is delayed he or she potentially losses 11 days of life.
"Before this new development the thrombolysis drug was only ever administered in hospital or by some GPs."
Paramedics in Ceredigion are chosen to pilot the scheme
Katie Norton, chair of the Mid and South West Wales Cardiac Network and chief executive at Neath Port Talbot Local Health Board, is delighted.
She said: "All the organisations in the network have co-operated to support the Welsh Ambulance Service in making this vital service happen."
A report by the Royal College of Physicians has highlighted the need for action to speed up treatment for heart attack victims and to reduce delays in giving life-saving drugs.
Dr Phil Thomas, lead clinician at the Cardiac Network and director of cardiac services for Wales, said: "There has been significant investment to expand the skills of NHS staff and develop new roles in the Welsh Ambulance Service.
"The ability of paramedics to perform this role is patently clear and supported by evidence.
"Funding from the assembly has been a genuine boost, but the real achievement has been gaining a commitment to staff development and thinking differently about how we get this life-saving treatment to patients as quickly as possible."