‘The reason I am alive today is that care was close by’

GRATEFUL John Withers is able to enjoy his garden thanks to lifesaving vascular surgeons.    Picture: Paul Jacobs (113180-1)
GRATEFUL John Withers is able to enjoy his garden thanks to lifesaving vascular surgeons. Picture: Paul Jacobs (113180-1)
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JOHN Withers owes his life to expert surgeons who saved him when a major heart artery burst.

So the pensioner is horrified at the thought that vein experts at Queen Alexandra Hospital could be moved to Southampton.

The 85-year-old is in no doubt that he would not be alive today if the vascular surgeons had not been on hand at the Cosham hospital.

He has signed up to our Keep It At QA campaign, which is calling for a full consultation on proposals by area health officials that could see the surgeons moved out of the city.

John, from Ashling Park Road, Denmead, collapsed in his living room after his aorta burst, causing blood to leak into his body.

His wife rushed him to QA where vascular surgeons performed a five-hour keyhole operation to seal the artery.

John, a former captain for Waterlooville Golf Club, said: ‘The reason why I am still alive is because I was able to get access to care close by.

‘I had been suffering with an enlarged aorta for more than 10 years. I didn’t realise how bad it had got. I’m thankful to be alive.’

John’s gratitude to vascular surgeons is the reason why he is getting behind our bid to stop them leaving QA Hospital.

He said: ‘If an artery leaks in your body it’s extremely serious. That’s why we must have the surgeons here. The people working at the desks aren’t thinking this through.’

Graham Sutton, a consultant surgeon who specialises in vascular surgery at QA Hospital, said John might have died if he had needed to travel for treatment elsewhere.

NHS South Central, the area’s strategic health authority, has proposed transferring the surgeons from QA to Southampton General Hospital as one of a number of options.

Mr Sutton said: ‘John’s condition can kill everyone – you will die if you are not operated on. We are one of only a few hospitals in the country that perform this surgery as an emergency.’

Mr Sutton added: ‘The proposals include the type of surgery John received being moved to Southampton.

‘That’s not good because it would not improve a quality in service. It will only cause delays, which can risk lives.

‘If you needed to travel further to find expert care that would be different. But QA hospital already has quality treatment available.’

NHS South Central has begun a six-week engagement process on the proposals, which does not call for public views.

The News is calling for a three-month public consultation instead – and we are urging readers to sign our open letter to rally their support.

If enough people write in before September 30, it is hoped the health authorities will launch the consultation.