AHEAD of World Heart Day on Sunday, Minister of State for Care Caroline Dinenage visited the pioneering transplant unit at Harefield Hospital.

She met patients and staff and hear about the unit’s ground-breaking 'artificial heart' programme and use of the organ care system.

Artificial hearts, or ventricular assist devices (VADS), give patients valuable extra time on the transplant waiting list and have saved hundreds of lives.

Teams at Harefield implanted 30 devices in 2018/19 making it the largest programme in the UK.  

Organ care uses technology to keep donor hearts beating outside the human body, enabling donated organs to be transported from as far away as Scotland to Harefield. 

The minister said: “It is 40 years since the UK’s first heart transplant, and many, including some of the brave people I met, are still waiting for the gift of life.”

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Responding to a message on social media from Harefield patient Julie Bartlett, she commented: “It was a massive pleasure to meet you! Really humbled by your bravery, your approach to life and in fact all-round awesomeness.

“Will follow your journey closely and do all I can to promote organ donation.”

Julie, who is waiting for a heart transplant, praised the care she had received at Harefield, which she described as “an absolutely brilliant place to be”.

David Webb, who recently had a transplant, stressed the importance of people having open conversations with their loved ones about organ donation.

“Families are often making the decision at an extremely stressful time,” he said. “If the preparation is done beforehand, it makes it a lot easier.”

Medical director Mark Mason said: “I think the minister got a sense, not only of the expertise within our transplant, intensive care and imaging teams, but also of the very special atmosphere at Harefield and of the close-knit community we are proud to call our staff.”