HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc674-6W
Mr. Rhodes James

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is ready to announce the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the subject of heart transplantation.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Heart transplantation is now an established procedure in several centres abroad, which are achieving long term survival rates comparable with those of kidney transplantation. Such results have not yet been achieved in Great Britain, but recent results are promising and, in the Government's view, justify further development and evaluation of the operation. This view accords with the advice which my right hon. Friends and I have received from the transplant advisory panel.

The panel has advised that heart transplants should be carried out only as part of a planned programme of at least eight operations per year, in centres which meet certain conditions and which can carry out the work without detriment to other established cardiac services. The criteria which the panel considered should be met by any centre contemplating heart transplants were set out in the Chief Medical Officer's letter of 21 February which was quoted in my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) on 28 February.—[Vol. 979, c. 701–2.] The Government accept the panel's advice with the rider that any programme should be without detriment to non-cardiac as well as cardiac services in the area concerned.

The panel has accepted Papworth hospital, Cambridge, as suitable for a programme, and the Cambridgeshire area health authority (teaching) is satisfied, after a detailed study, that, given improvements to the operating theatre and intensive care facilities at Papworth and appropriate financial support, a programme could be undertaken without detriment to its other services. I welcome this conclusion, and am happy to endorse the authority's proposals.

It has this morning been announced that the Robinson charitable trust has donated £300,000 for heart transplant work at Papworth hospital in 1981 and 1982. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the trust most warmly for this very generous and welcome donation, which will ensure that the hospital has sufficient funds to undertake a proper programme in those years.

In the light of this donation, I have agreed to make a special allocation of up to £100,000 to the area health authority to cover the capital cost of improving the operating theatres and intensive care unit. I understand that the authority hopes to have sufficient funds available from other sources to continue operating until the trust's money becomes available, but I shall be prepared to give it some additional revenue support during 1980 if necessary.

The continuing programme at Papworth will provide a basis for determining future policy by enabling the medical profession, the Government, and health authorities to assess over the next two or three years the place of heart transplantation in the treatment of certain forms of chronic heart disease, and to evaluate more fully than is yet possible the resource implications and the effects on other services. During this period of assessment, the purpose of which I shall shortly be discussing with chairmen of regional health authorities, the Government do not expect health authorities to give priority to heart transplantation programmes elsewhere.

Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East on 28 February, how the figure of £140,000 for a programme of eight transplants in one year was calculated; what estimates his Department has made of the costs of not carrying out heart transplants in the event of the patient (a) dying and (b) surviving as an invalid where the patient is (i) single and (ii) supporting a family of two children; and when he expects to conclude his consideration of the issues of priorities and finance involved in cardiac transplantation.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I am sending to the hon. Member the paper on costs referred to by my hon. Friend in his answer on 28 February. No detailed estimates have been made of the total financial cost to the State of not carrying out heart transplants on various categories of patient. I recognise, however, that a successful heart transplant which made a patient fit to work again could bring about substantial savings in benefit and so on which might partially or wholly offset the cost to the State of the operation itself. On the issue of heart transplants generally, I refer the hon. Member to my reply today to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James).