Case shows why we must keep heart surgeons

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If ever there was a prime example of why vascular surgery should be retained at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, it is the case of Alec Jarman.

As we report on page 4 today, Mr Jarman, 80, suffered a mild heart attack but, ironically, it was one which saved his life.

For it was as a result of that that he was whisked into the Cosham hospital.

There, heart surgeons discovered a much bigger problem. Mr Jarman had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. They’re known as silent killers because people often do not know about them until they burst and it’s too late.

Vascular and renal consultant surgeon Paul Gibbs operated on Mr Jarman and gave him a new life.

As Mr Jarman says: ‘It’s amazing what he did. He’s given me my life and I can’t thank him enough.’

There are countless other patients in south-east Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight who have QA vascular surgeons to thank for their lives.

But turn to our daily Agenda feature on pages 8 and 9 and we see that, yet again, this life-giving service at QA is threatened.

Just 18 months after the last hard-fought battle was won, we’re in danger of losing the vascular team to Southampton once more. At the moment both cities carry out vascular surgery.

The News ran a campaign called Keep It At QA and 6,000 of you signed petitions and wrote letters to keep it.

It is the current commissioners of health services, the Wessex Area Team which has raised the issue again after its predecessor backed down.

In the arcane world of NHS funding it appears you need to serve a population of 800,000 to get a vascular surgery unit. Southampton meets that. Portsmouth doesn’t because it serves ‘only’ 600,000 – that’s 600,000 people living in one of the most deprived and sickly parts of England.

We have higher than average numbers of smokers, diabetics, fat people and the elderly, all of whom are prone to heart attacks.

None of this made any sense two years ago. It certainly doesn’t today. Just ask Alec Jarman.