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Historic day as first patients are treated at new Royal Papworth


By Gemma Gardner


The first patients have been admitted to the new Royal Papworth Hospital, and the first procedures completed, as it completes its multi-million pound move to Cambridge.

Moving the leading heart and lung hospital some 16 miles from its former Papworth Everard home to its new location on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus was completed over a three-week period.

Royal Papworth Hospital first procedure and operation on the Biomedical Campus, here stents are placed into a patient in one of the Cath Labs. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9521165)
Royal Papworth Hospital first procedure and operation on the Biomedical Campus, here stents are placed into a patient in one of the Cath Labs. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9521165)

Professor John Wallwork, chairman of Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The planning that’s gone into this move is outrageous! It’s been years in coming for the building, but the planning of the move has been almost military. It’s been so well organised. I can’t explain how hard people have worked.

“But the most important thing is that we’ve moved the culture – the staff.

“The building is vitally important, but moving the culture of Papworth here is a big thing, and there’s a huge buzz around.”

The Papworth Everard site officially closed last Saturday, following the transfer by the East of England Ambulance Service and Amvale of 39 ward inpatients and nine critical care patients to the new hospital in just one day, rather than the scheduled three.

The hospital has moved to be alongside Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and AstraZeneca’s new global headquarters and research and development site.

It will have 300 beds, five operating theatres, a critical care unit – and 1,800 members of staff.

Two corridors will connect staff and patients directly to Addenbrooke’s.

“One of the reasons we’re here is to be near other specialisms but not to be distracted by that. And in a way you could argue that the family has grown and we needed a bigger house,” added Prof Wallwork.

Among the operations being performed on the first day patients were admitted to the site on Wednesday (May 1) was a cardiac procedure – an aortic valve replacement and coronary artery bypass graft.

Meanwhile, patient Michael Badcock, 76, from Soham was the first person to try out one of the new cath labs, where non-surgical procedures take place.

“I’d only seen the hospital from the outside, but inside it’s just as good,” he said. “Everyone here is incredible. There’s a real family-feel.”

Mr Badcock had a percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, sometimes known as angioplasty or stenting.

Under local anaesthetic, a thin flexible tube called a catheter was inserted into one of his arteries through an incision in his arm. This was guided to the affected coronary artery using an X-ray video.

When the catheter is in place, a thin wire is guided down the length of the affected coronary artery, delivering a small balloon to the affected section. This is then inflated to widen the artery, squashing fatty deposits against the artery wall so blood can flow through it more freely when the deflated balloon is removed.

Royal Papworth Hospital first procedure and operation on the Biomedical Campus, surgical staff at work in one of the theatres. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9521339)
Royal Papworth Hospital first procedure and operation on the Biomedical Campus, surgical staff at work in one of the theatres. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9521339)

A stent, which is placed around the balloon before it was inserted, remains in place when the balloon is deflated and removed. The procedure usually takes between 30 minutes and two hours.

Designed by clinicians with patients in mind, the new hospital building will support Royal Papworth staff to deliver excellent care to patients suffering from heart and lung disease.

The hospital has two dedicated lifts to take heart attack patients from the ambulance bay directly to the cath labs in an emergency, and a dedicated entrance and lift for relatives and friends visiting patients in critical care.

There is also a specialist air filtering system in the hospital’s cystic fibrosis department to minimise the spread of airbourne infections.

Chief executive Stephen Posey visited every ward and department on the first day and said there was a real sense of excitement.

Speaking last Wednesday, he said: “We’ve been rehearsing for this for some time, and this is our big opening performance. This is now an operational hospital. It’s a proud moment and staff have worked really hard.”

He continued: “We think we can even improve on the great care that we’re famous for on the old site.

“It’s a much better patient environment and our location alongside industry, academia and our colleagues at Addenbrooke’s means we can develop treatments.”

Royal Papworth Hospital Out Patients opens, patient Lisa John. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9826344)
Royal Papworth Hospital Out Patients opens, patient Lisa John. Picture: Keith Heppell. (9826344)

There will now be a period of decommissioning at the old site to protect the buildings and the assets on it.

This means Royal Papworth staff and security will remain in the village as these works will carry on through to the summer.

Prof Wallwork added: “I have said many times that we will miss Papworth Everard – from the people to our old buildings and rooms which have transformed the lives of so many, but we know the move to the state-of-the-art building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus was the right thing to do.

“The opportunities we now have to deliver improved patient care and develop new treatments and techniques in collaboration with our friends on the campus is very exciting and I cannot wait to see the possibilities unfold.”

Papworth Hospital began life as a tuberculosis colony in 1918. The UK’s first successful heart transplant was carried out there in 1979 – and the world’s first successful heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986.

It was granted a royal title by the Queen in September 2017.



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