Papworth Heroes

Terence English

Consultant Surgeon
Performed the UK's first successful heart transplant in 1979.

Terence English joined Papworth Hospital as a locum consultant in November 1972 and was appointed to the substantive post three months later. Christopher Parish and Ben Milstein were his two colleagues and he soon developed an enjoyable and productive working relationship with Ben Milstein.

During 1973, 162 open heart operations were undertaken with a mortality rate of 5%. However, surgical activity increased rapidly and, after visiting Stanford, Terence decided Britain needed a heart transplant programme.

A major problem was lack of support from the cardiologists. However, after research at Huntingdon Research Centre where techniques for preserving the donor heart prior to its implantation in the recipient were developed, the first heart transplant was performed in January 1979. This was not successful, but four of the next five cases lived between three and eight years. Funding was also a problem in the early years, but help from the National Heart Research Fund and the Robinson Charitable Trust helped until Papworth Hospital was designated a national centre for transplantation.

A British Heart Foundation Research group was established in 1980 and this and departmental funding enabled the employment of additional staff to cope with the expanding workload. John Wallwork joined the team in November 1981 and combined heart-lung transplantation soon followed.

Thereafter, Papworth Hospital continued to attract outstanding surgeons, and with their contribution became one of the busiest cardiac surgical centres in the UK and also recognised as a pre-eminent heart and lung transplant unit.