Meet the hidden lifesavers at QA hospital

21/12/11   PM''Vascular Surgeon Mark Pemberton, pictured in an operating  theatre at the QA Hospital''Picture: Paul Jacobs (114461-3)
21/12/11 PM''Vascular Surgeon Mark Pemberton, pictured in an operating theatre at the QA Hospital''Picture: Paul Jacobs (114461-3)

Questions over QA’s ability to staff theatres

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They are the hidden lifesavers who walk the corridors of Portsmouth’s main hospital.

Alongside planned operations and ward visits, vascular surgeons play a crucial role in many procedures if things don’t go to plan.

PATIENT George Thorpe

PATIENT George Thorpe

It’s why bosses at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham are desperately fighting off plans to transfer them to Southampton.

The surgeons specialise in working with veins and arteries, which means their expertise can be called upon for a whole host of different areas.

Mark Pemberton has been a specialist vein surgeon since 1998 and is one of four vascular surgeons based at QA.

The 50-year-old explains the different roles surgeons play at QA.

He said: ‘Our main work is dealing with aortic aneurysms and clearing blockages in veins and arteries.

‘But we also deal with minor amputations and support other surgery such as cancer work.

‘For instance if there are cancerous cells close to a big vessel, we could be called if this is damaged.

‘Or we can be summoned for trauma cases too.’

As part of The News’ Keep it at QA campaign, Mark recorded a diary of an average week’s work as a vascular surgeon, which can be found on the right of this page.

‘We treat a lot of diabetic and elderly patients,’ said Mark.

‘This diary shows a pretty average week of the work carried out.

‘During the week I operated on a patient who would have lost his leg had the surgery not been carried out.

‘You could argue travel time could affect the outcome of a patient’s treatment.

‘But a lot of the patients who we see are elderly and vulnerable and are just about managing.

‘It just seems like a waste of time sending people to Southampton if there is a good system that is working well here at the moment.

‘It the service was moved to Southampton, then for some it could be a long way to travel to be given some antibiotics and then sent home. It can be so stressful, with not a lot to gain.’

Each year the specialist surgeons carry out around 80 leg bypass operations, 60 elected aneurysm operations and around 150 diabetic feet operations.

‘We see a lot of diabetic patients who have infected feet,’ added Mark.

‘We have a mixture of seeing elective, or planned patients and emergency operations. We take part in ward visits and work in outpatient clinics.’

‘This service is vital’, says patient George

PATIENT George Thorpe cannot praise the vascular team at Queen Alexandra Hospital highly enough.

The 74-year-old has spent the past three weeks inside the Cosham hospital as surgeons worked to save his right leg.

The retired seaman, of Stride Avenue, Copnor, said: ‘I cannot praise this team highly enough for what they do.

‘Before my operation everything was explained to me and I felt at ease.

‘You only have to look around the ward to see how many patients are being treated by this fantastic team.’

Mr Thorpe, who has had a similar operation on his left leg, had begun to notice a stiffness in his right leg last month.

‘I was about to get into my car when I felt my leg seize up,’ added Mr Thorpe.

‘I called my wife straight away and said she needed to get me an ambulance because there was nothing I would be able to do.

‘The pain you feel is unbelievable.

‘To move the service to Southampton would be silly.

‘I wouldn’t want to be in that sort of pain for another 20 minutes.

‘You also need to think about people in Chichester, because it’s a big distance for them to travel.’

Mr Thorpe also said it’s important for patients to be visited by friends and family.

He said: ‘To see my family helps me keep in touch with the outside world.

‘It’s vital that the service stays local for people, so that patients can get visits from family.’

Seven day diary of a surgeon

Saturday (On call)

9am: Ward round to visit vascular patients in hospital.

10.30am to 12.30pm: Unscheduled surgery.

Had to unblock an artery and carry out a bypass graft in a lady who was readmitted following balloon angioplasty some four days earlier. She had come in with leg pain/foot numbness. A scan showed a new blockage.

8pm: Called about 92-year-old man admitted with probable ruptured aneurysm. Decision was made not to operate.

Sunday (On call)

9am to 10am: Ward round to visit patients in hospital.

12.30pm: Call readmission of patient with acute circulatory failure in his right leg.

Needed urgent surgery if leg was to be saved.

1.30pm to 7.30pm: Surgery to save leg.

Patient operated on, which involved treating aneurysm behind knee.

There was a good outcome, although hard work, the patient is recovering well and has had follow-up appointments.

Monday (On call)

8am to 10am: Discussions on performing elective surgery on patient with large aortic aneurysm.

Due to lack of Intensive Care Unit capacity the case was rearranged for Wednesday morning.

10.45am: Referred patient in A and E with ruptured aortic aneurysm.

85-year-old male was conscious but in shock.

Assessed with consultant anaesthetist and the patient was taken straight to theatre.

His abdomen was opened and diagnosis confirmed, but the patient was lost.

The procedure abandoned.

1pm to 5pm: Two further elective cases.

First was an exploration of an infected stump in man who had undergone above knee amputation some two months earlier.

Second was a below knee amputation performed on diabetic man who had had his foot amputated some four days earlier.


Morning: Spent in outpatients clinic in Emsworth Victoria Cottage Hospital, Emsworth.

Afternoon: Had my appraisal.


(On call)

Attempt to perform elective case from the Monday unsuccessful due to ongoing shortage of beds in critical care, patient sent home again at 10.30. Not good.

In between sorting this out – weekly multidisciplinary meeting with interventional radiology in X-ray seminar room, followed by ward inpatient review with lead physiotherapist.

This was followed by ward round up to 1pm.

Afternoon: Admin


Morning: Visit private outpatient.

Afternoon: off.


8am to 10am: Visit vascular patients in hospital.

10am to midday: Visit vascular clinic to see patients with diabetic foot problems and leg circulation problems.

Afternoon: Two minor operations.

A revision of graft performed previously and another to close a wound.