PATIENTS whose lives were saved by Papworth Hospital have been sending messages of support to the medical staff after heart transplant operations at the hospital were suspended. Transplants were halted there last Thursday (November 1) and a review started

Maggie Gambrill who had a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital says she cannot fault the care she received at there.

PATIENTS whose lives were saved by Papworth Hospital have been sending messages of support to the medical staff after heart transplant operations at the hospital were suspended.

Transplants were halted there last Thursday (November 1) and a review started following an increase in mortality rates. According to the hospital, seven out of 20 patients given a new heart at Papworth this year died within 30 days of the operation.

A team of clinical and technical experts has started an internal audit of the hospital, which should be completed in two weeks. Until the review is finished, no heart transplants will take place. All other services at the hospital, however, remain unaffected.

A hospital spokesman told The Hunts Post they had been contacting patients on the heart transplant waiting list and others affected by the review.

She added: "Should an urgent case arise, clinicians in Papworth will discuss with the external advisers 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.

"As part of our routine audit processes, we regularly review the 30-day survival rates for patients who undergo heart transplantation. During the course of this audit we identified a small increase in early mortality following cardiac transplantation.

"Even though the numbers are relatively small, this has been of sufficient concern for us to inform the Department of Health of this change in outcomes."

Maggie Gambrill, 53, of Kimbolton, had a heart transplant at the hospital in 2002. She told The Hunts Post: "I have nothing but praise for Papworth Hospital. The heart transplant gave me a new life. I cannot fault the hospital at all.

"I remain a patient for the rest of my life and cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me. I cannot fault their care and know they are always at the end of a telephone should I need anything. When you go to have a heart transplant you are very sick and the staff treat every patient and their families with the utmost care and attention."

The hospital, which is one of only five in the UK to offer heart transplant operations, is now working with the Healthcare Commission to undertake a preliminary review into its heart transplantation programme. The review will look at the quality of care that transplant patients receive and examine case notes and procedures. Lung transplants and other heart procedures are not affected. Once the review team has completed its investigation, it will report to the Chief Medical Officer.

The first successful heart transplant in the UK was carried out at Papworth Hospital in 1984. The hospital has a reputation for pioneering heart surgery and last May the first UK transplant operation using a "beating heart" was carried out at Papworth.

INFORMATION: Any patients or relatives who have concerns about the suspension of heart transplants at Papworth can contact a member of the transplant team on 01480 830541.