Delivering care through collaboration
January 11, 2024

Scotland’s heart transplant unit expands

Heart transplant patient Colin Gray (above)

Scotland’s only heart transplant centre at NHS Golden Jubilee, is expanding to support more patients across Scotland than ever before.

The Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS), based at the Golden Jubilee University National Hospital in Clydebank, now has a second ward, which will help cope with the increased numbers of heart transplants after carrying out a record number of 40 in 2022-23 - the highest volume provider of any UK centre over that year.

There have been several factors which have led to the increase, including innovation in techniques and advancements in technology, such as an Organ Care System (Heart in a Box).

This allows surgeons to transplant hearts from donors who die after circulatory death (DCD), which have increased the availability of hearts for transplant and have also boosted the success rate, which is currently at 95% for 90-day survival.

Registration for organ donation has also been higher in Scotland over the last 2 years following the opt-out change in the law in 2021, which has increased awareness of organ donation.

In what was a momentous year for the transplant team at NHS Golden Jubilee, they also celebrated carrying out the 500th Scottish heart transplant since the heart failure treatment was introduced in the country in December 1991.

Heart transplant surgeon Simon Messer said: “We are very excited about the opening of our new ward and expansion of the heart transplant service, as we continue to grow and evolve for the patients of Scotland.

Simon Messer.jpg

Simon Messer

“There are many factors as to why there has been an increase in heart transplants in Scotland over the past couple of years.

“I think one of the main factors is having this dedicated, multidisciplinary and very skilled team in place here at NHS Golden Jubilee, which is helping us to do more than we were able to in previous years.

“It has been quite a year for heart transplantation in Scotland. Heart transplants not only save lives, they also enhance lives for the recipients who often go on to lead a much healthier, more active lifestyle.

“Our additional ward can also now help us extend the lives of even more people in Scotland who are living with heart failure and may need a transplant.

“However, all transplantation is only possible thanks to the generosity of organ donors and their families.”

Colin Gray from Inverness received a new heart last year after having cardiomyopathy for 12 years and having a pacemaker fitted until he became seriously ill and was put on the transplant list.

Colin, age 60, who works for Scottish Water as a leakage fuel technician, said: “I was just struggling to walk anywhere and do things and when I was at my local hospital, Raigmore in Inverness, I was told that the only way forward for me was a heart transplant.

“It was quite scary really, but fortunately I got on the list and I was very lucky that I didn’t wait too long.

“There was a lot of apprehension, but at the end of the day, I knew that if it was going to improve my quality of life then, as scary as the thought of having it done was, it was something that would have to happen. 

“The difference already is unbelievable and I'm just so grateful to be back home and out walking my dogs again, which is just phenomenal.”

While advancements in technology and the opt-out law change have helped increase the number of heart transplants in Scotland, they could not have happened without the gift of life from donors and their families who have selflessly supported the donation of organs so others can live.

Colin added: “I am just so grateful that I've been given this opportunity from the people that have put themselves forward for organ donation, and I would very much encourage anyone to do it because it saves and changes lives.”

Colin’s heart transplant journey, including footage from his life-saving operation, will be shown on a special Scotland Tonight programme on STV on Thursday 11 January at 8.30pm.

The programme will also cover details about the expansion of heart transplant services at NHS Golden Jubilee.

Click this link to view

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