RAF helicopter flies seriously ill patient 120 miles for surgery

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The Independent Online

A critically ill heart patient had to be flown 120 miles by RAF helicopter to a specialist bed in Wales because doctors were unable to find one for him in the south-east of England.

William Dennis, 68, was airlifted at 6am yesterday from the Wexham Park Hospital in Slough to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where he finally went into surgery 12 hours later.

He was undergoing an operation last night under the care of consultant cardiac surgeon Francesco Musumeci.

Jonathon Davies, general manager in Cardiff, said his counterparts in Slough appeared "desperate" by the time they contacted the Welsh hospital. "His condition was critical this morning, so for them to phone us, they must have been pretty desperate," he said. "They rang us at about 3 or 4am and said there was no cardiac unit that could take him in the south- east. Fortunately, we were in a position to provide him with a bed. I don't recall anything like this happening before."

The Cardiff hospital has the only specialist cardiac unit in Wales and carries out 1,000 heart operations a year.

A spokeswoman for Wexham Park Hospital, which does not have its own specialist cardiac unit, said its usual providers of cardiac support care, the Brompton hospital in London and the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, had no spare beds.

"After contacting a number of hospitals, the University Hospital in Cardiff said it could provide a specialist bed," she said. "Berkshire Ambulance Service was asked to organise transport and they arranged for him to be flown by RAF helicopter."

A bill for Mr Dennis's care will be sent by the University Hospital to the Berkshire Consortium Health Authority in due course.