Heart attack patients are getting life-saving drugs at hospitals more quickly.

Figures released by the Department of Health revealed almost every hospital in the county makes sure at least three-quarters of patients are given a clot-busting drug within half an hour of arrival.

The best performing hospitals are Eastbourne District General and the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, which treated 96 and 95 per cent of heart attack patients on time resp-ectively between April last year and March this year. This is an increase from the 82 and 81 per cent the year before.

The Princess Royal in Haywards Heath has increased from 90 to 91 per cent but the Royal Sussex County in Brighton has gone down from 86 to 81 per cent.

This is mainly because specialist staff at the Royal Sussex are using another treatment called angioplasty instead of drugs which involves inserting a balloon into the artery to widen and unblock it.

St Richard"s in Chichester has risen from 81 to 89 per cent, which is above the 86 per cent average for England.

The Government standard is at least 75 per cent of patients should get the treatment within 30 minutes of arriving.

The only exception to Sussex"s good performance is Worthing Hospital where only 66 per cent of patients are given the drug within the 30-minute standard.

The figures come from the fourth public report from the myocardial infarction national audit project on the treatment of heart attack patients.

Clot-busting (thrombolytic) drugs help reverse the effects of a heart attack by unblocking arteries and getting the blood supply back to the heart again.

It can be effective up to 12 hours after the onset of the symptoms of a heart attack but is most effective when given within the first three hours.

All hospitals in the country are aiming to get the time from arrival at the hospital to the administration of the drug (door-to-needle time) to 30 minutes or less in most cases.

Sarah Young, a nurse consultant in cardiology at the Royal Sussex, said: "We have continued to achieve this standard during the past year through continuing hard work by the emergency care teams who treat the patient when they first arrive in hospital and the specialist cardiac teams."

Some patients are also getting the drugs before they even arrive at hospital because almost all Sussex Ambulance paramedics have been trained to give it if the circumstances are right.

Since December 2003, 77 Sussex patients have benefited from this on-the-road treatment.