Hospital continued heart and lung transplant operations throughout pandemic

Sam Russell, PA
·2-min read

The UK’s leading heart and lung hospital performed more than one transplant operation per week in the last year despite the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge performed 37 heart transplants and 19 lung transplants between April 2020 and March 2021, newly released figures show.

This was 70% of the total from the year before.

Dr Stephen Pettit, consultant cardiologist and clinical lead for transplant, said: “It’s been an incredibly challenging year for everyone in the hospital, including all of us in the transplant unit.

“Despite the pressures on intensive care and the fact people who die of coronavirus cannot donate their organs, plus with staff being redeployed, we have managed to continue performing transplants, alongside supporting our patients who have had transplants already and those on the waiting list.”

Simon Panton, 46, before he underwent heart transplant surgery at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. (Royal Papworth Hospital/ PA)
Simon Panton, 46, before he underwent heart transplant surgery at Royal Papworth Hospital (Royal Papworth Hospital/PA)

He thanked all staff involved who went to “great lengths” to continue to treat patients.

The hospital also collaborated with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to roll out a world-first paediatric heart transplant programme, which saved the lives of six children in 2020.

One of the 37 adults to have a heart transplant at Royal Papworth was Simon Panton, 46, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, who had a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy.

He said: “I spent about 15 weeks in hospital during winter both before and after my transplant and felt completely safe throughout.

“The only down side was watching England in the cricket on TV.

“I’ve been home a couple of weeks now and was not expecting to be feeling this good this soon. I’m already the fittest I’ve been in the past three years.

“I will be forever indebted to my donor for allowing me this chance at a new life with my wife and two sons.”

Pradeep Kaul, consultant transplant surgeon at Royal Papworth, said: “Our heart transplant numbers are actually very similar to a normal year, but because of the nature of coronavirus and how it affects the lungs, it’s lung transplantation where the impact is felt more strongly.

“Some patients have been worried about coming to hospital and therefore stay away or take themselves off the list, but we would reassure people that the pathways for patient care set up at Royal Papworth Hospital have resulted in no hospital-acquired Covid infections in our transplant recipients.

“We will keep striving hard to keep our patients safe.

“The fact that we transplanted our most sick patients on the lung transplant waiting list, successfully, in the middle of a respiratory pandemic is a huge testament to the efforts of the transplant team throughout this challenging period.”