2015 marks Harefield Hospital’s centenary and its transformation from First World War hospital into one of the world’s leading heart and lung centres.
Harefield Hospital's fascinating story began in June 1915 when Australian benefactor Charles Billyard-Leaker donated his home, Harefield Park and its 250-acre estate, to treat Australian soldiers injured in the First World War. As a military hospital, Harefield treated over 50,000 soldiers during the course of the war.
Following the war, Harefield became a hospital for patients with tuberculosis; this laid the foundations for the future of Harefield as a world-renowned centre for lung and respiratory disease. In 1948, it became part of the new National Health Service and began to develop its expertise in heart conditions in addition to its established lung expertise. Six years later, the hospital started treating private patients in addition to its NHS work.
Groundbreaking work led by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub in the latter part of the century included the first successful heart transplant at Harefield Hospital in 1980 followed by the world's first combined heart and lung transplant in 1983. This led to Harefield Hospital having the largest transplant programme of its kind anywhere in the world.
In 1998, Harefield Hospital merged with Royal Brompton Hospital, Chelsea, to the form Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and became one of the UK's leading specialist trusts.
Pioneers in heart and lung transplants
Over 2,500 heart and lung transplants have been performed at Harefield Hospital, transforming the lives of critically ill patients. This includes the world's longest heart transplant patient, John McCafferty, who is celebrating over 32 years since his heart transplant in October 1982.
In 1995, Harefield Hospital pioneered the development of 'artificial hearts' (also known as left ventricular assist devices or LVADs). It now operates the largest VAD centre in the UK.
In 2009, Harefield Hospital was the first UK centre to successfully perform a novel technique to increase the usability of donated lungs for transplant. The technique, ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), takes donated lungs which may have been previously considered unsuitable for transplantation and 'reconditions' them on a modified heart-lung bypass machine so that the lungs are then suitable for transplant.
The following year, Harefield was the first transplant centre in the UK to perform pioneering lung transplant surgery that dramatically improves recovery times and long-term wellbeing. The new minimally invasive lung transplantation differs from established methods because it does not require surgeons to cut through the sternum to open the entire chest. Instead, organs are replaced individually via small incisions in the side of the ribcage. The benefits to patients include fewer wound complications and less bleeding and pain.
Capturing 100 years of history
During 2015, an oral history project ensured that the memories of staff, patients and all those who have had a link with Harefield Hospital over the years, will be captured for posterity.
The information formed part of a public exhibition about the development of the hospital and the dramatic changes that have taken place in medicine and surgery during the last 100 years.
The innovation timeline
1947: World’s first valvotomy (enlarging narrowed heart valves).
1976: First corrective or 'switch' operation for children, where the aorta and pulmonary artery leave the wrong side of the heart.
1980: First successful heart transplant performed at Harefield Hospital.
1992: Heart Science Centre opened, dedicated to research into heart disease.
1995: Pioneered artificial left-ventricular assist devices (LVADs or 'artificial hearts').
2003: New transplant outpatient facility opens and named the ANZAC Centre commemorates the hospital’s links with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.
2004: Dedicated heart attack centre opens.
2012: Harefield Hospital is one of the first to use organ care systems (OCS) to transport hearts for transplant operations. OCS enables hearts to be transported further distances and kept in better condition leading to better outcomes for transplant patients.
2013: Harefield patient, John McCafferty, is officially recognised as the world’s longest surviving heart transplant patient by Guinness World Records.
2014: Start of a new clinical trial that will assess gene therapy for patients with heart pumps and provide detailed insight on its impact on the heart muscle. A Harefield Hospital patient is the first in the with an LVAD to take part in the trial.
What our patients say about Harefield Hospital
"When I arrived at Harefield, I was told that it was one of the best cardiac hospitals in all of Europe. I firmly believe that this is true." - Fiona, daughter of a heart disease patient
"We are very grateful for the care we received at Harefield - it is the closest thing to a miracle that we have ever experienced." - Charleen, wife of a lung cancer patient