Hospital and emergency care services dealing with cardiac and stroke patients are to be reconfigured on a network basis, as part of a reorganisation of cardiovascular services.

The plans will not see any services curtailed or hospitals closed, although Minister for Health Mary Harney would not rule out the possibility that certain hospitals might lose existing services.

The blueprint is contained in the report of the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, which was launched by the Minister for Health this afternoon and is to be implemented following its recent approval by Government.

Cardiovascular diseases and conditions are the biggest killer in Ireland each year, claiming over 10,000 lives.

The new plan, which is due to be implemented over the next 10 years, contains 69 recommendations, covering areas including prevention and health promotion, primary care and hospital and emergency care services.

The prevention and promotion plans include targets for eliminating risk factors like reducing obesity by 5% by 2019, reducing salt intake to 6g per adult a day and reducing smoking by 1% a year.

The primary care plans envisage the promotion of patients awareness of their own health, preventing stroke by controlling blood pressure and providing anti-coagulation services and evaluating patient risk factors at primary care level.

Hospital and emergency care cardiovascular services will be reorganised into networks.

Each network will cater for half a million people and will consist of local and regional hospitals, which will all provide a range of services, suitable and relevant to their size and location.

The implementation of the plan will be overseen by a number of doctors or clinical tsars.

Those behind the plan believe the existing capacity will be sufficient if it is reorganised.