HEART transplants have been suspended at a leading hospital after a review began to look in to mortality rates.

It is believed seven out of 20 patients given a new heart at Papworth Hospital so far this year were f

HEART transplants have been suspended at a leading hospital after a review began to look in to mortality rates.

It is believed seven out of 20 patients given a new heart at Papworth Hospital so far this year were found to have died within 30 days of the operation.

The procedures at Papworth Hospital were suspended following the internal audit which revealed there had been an increase in the early deaths of patients.

Hospital officials say that a team, including clinical and technical experts, have started a review which should be completed within the next two weeks.

The hospital is now working with the Healthcare Commission to undertake the preliminary review into its Heart Transplantation Programme.

Following the audit findings the trust notified the Department of Health, which called in the Healthcare Commission to oversee the review.

A hospital spokesman said: “During the review heart transplants at Papworth will be paused. Should an urgent case arise, clinicians in Papworth will discuss with the external advisors involved in the review how to manage the patients.

“Heart transplants are inherently high-risk, complex procedures performed on a relatively small number of patients and the number of operations likely to be affected is therefore small.”

The hospital sees 21,000 inpatients a year and so far 21 have been for heart transplants but eight of those died within the 30-day “early death” criteria.

“Because heart transplants are very severe and high risk operations, we quite rightly informed the Department of Health once we had the audit findings,” he said.

The hospital say that its longer term survival rates for heart transplant patients are comparable with the world's leading centres.

Lung transplants and other heart procedures such as angioplasty and by-pass surgery are unaffected by the audit findings and are continuing as normal.

Once the review panel has completed its investigation it will report to the Chief Medical Officer.

The spokesman added: “We are contacting patients on the waiting list and others affected by this review directly, but if patients or relatives have any concerns they can contact a member of the transplant team via Papworth's switchboard on 01480 830541.”

Papworth has a reputation for pioneering heart surgery and last May the first UK transplant operation using a “beating heart” was carried out with 58-year-old Norfolk man Michael Burt receiving the donated organ.

* Have you or any of your family been affected by the halting of heart transplants at Papworth Hospital? If so phone The Hunts Post newsroom on 01480 411481 or e-mail editor@huntspost.co.uk