Spire Leeds 25 year anniversary - consultant memories

27 August 2014

We speak to four consultants who have worked at the hospital since it opened 25 years ago and hear about their experiences and the medical changes and advancements they have witnessed.

Professor Simon Kay

Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon

Professor Simon Kay

Professor Kay led the team performing the UK’s first hand transplant and is recognised internationally for his pioneering surgery. He has worked at Spire Leeds Hospital since day one.

When the hospital first opened, it was viewed by many as the beginning of a whole new chapter for private healthcare in Yorkshire. Would you agree with this and why?
Prior to the opening of the hospital at Roundhay Hall, independent hospitals were small and quite modestly equipped. The new hospital at Roundhay was able to offer patients the latest technology, including scanners, high-tech theatres and most importantly intensive care and critical care beds to provide a medical ‘safety net’ for patients.

What are the major innovations in your fields of expertise over the last 25 years?
There is no doubt that microsurgery, improved techniques in cosmetic surgery, including better equipment for aspects of face-lifting, breast augmentation and liposuction, have contributed to advances in the field, and made the operations more effective and safer, although of course, all surgery still carries risks.

Can we effectively treat and manage more conditions today than 25 years ago?
Yes, and particularly in breast reconstruction, following cancer or other illness or injury, where the use of microsurgery has improved outcomes over the last 20 years.

How have patient expectations changed over the past 25 years? 
Patients are more extensively informed but not always better informed! This is because some of the information on the internet is very useful and some is nonsense. Unfortunately for the patients it is not always easy for the layperson to distinguish one from the other which is why all such information should only be a supplement to careful discussion between surgeon and patient, face to face.

For all that surgeons have learned in the past 25 years, what do you think the next 25 years holds?
I hope it holds a return to the values of caring that have been eroded in our health system by a focus on numbers and speed of treatment. Caring is what all nurses and doctors want to do. It should be at the heart of our work and I hope we do not lose sight of that. This is far more importantthan technical innovation.

Mr Paul Finan

Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon

Mr Paul Finan

Professor Finan is a consultant general surgeon, specialising in colorectal surgery including bowel cancer. He has worked in Leeds for 35 years. He performed his first surgery at the hospital during its first week of opening.

How did you first hear about the new hospital? 
I received a letter from the hospital team asking me to meet them. At that time, there was no private hospital in Leeds centre which had out-patient facilities on the same site as in-patient facilities and operating theatres.

This meant that consultants who did practice privately had to move from one facility to another for various stages of patient treatment. 

To have both together was a great advantage and as I already lived in Roundhay, I decided to set up practice.

What do you think the next 25 years hold within your specialist area?
Within my sub specialty, I would anticipate that the number of patients diagnosed with bowel cancer may well continue to increase as this tends to be a disease of the elderly and people are living far longer. To react to this, I anticipate that screening technology will continue to broaden, specifically endoscopy procedures. The quality of X-ray and scanning continues to improve at a tremendous pace which can only benefit the diagnosis and treatment services for patients.

There is much talk about whether NHS hospitals may become centres for the more complex, acute (emergency) type of medical care whilst established, high quality hospitals such as Spire may well undertake higher volumes of elective (planned) operations – these will still be very complex but can beplanned in advance. The most noticeable advances I have witnessed include The Calman-Hine Cancer Review. This 1995 plan outlined radical reform of the UK’s cancer services with the aim of improving outcomes and reducing inequalities in NHS cancer care. Its main recommendation was to concentrate care into the hands of site-specialist, multi-disciplinary cancer teams (MDTs).

Patients often now have procedures which are less invasive and allow them togo home the same day rather than stay in hospital for long periods of time. The introduction of keyhole surgery and video-endoscopy has also been very influential. Liver re-section surgery for cancer is now regularly undertaken – this greatly improves survival rates for patients with previous bowel cancer, as parts ofthe liver can be removed and so patients can in some cases be cured, evenwhen the cancer has spread. Bowel cancer affects one in 50 people and it affects women and men roughly equally. The national bowel cancer screening programmes are now proven to be successful and show it to be a curable disease.

What have you enjoyed about working at the hospital?
Many of the staff here have worked with me for many years. The hospital seems to keep hold of its staff very well and working relationships are really strong. The hospital is run very efficiently – for example, I can count the times on just one hand in the whole of the last 25 years when I’ve had to cancel a patient’s surgery because of bed shortages and this is a testament to both the service offered to patients and the doctors who work here.

Dr Gordon Williams

Consultant Cardiologist

Dr Gordon Williams

Dr Williams has worked in Leeds for 40 years and has been a consultant for 35 years. He performed his first surgery at the hospital during its first week of opening and was the hospital’s first Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee which was the body appointed to represent the consultant group and which worked closely with the hospital’s own management team.

How did you come to work at the new Roundhay Hospital?
I had been practicing privately in Leeds for a long time before the new hospital was opened. Previously, I had rented a private consulting room on Park Square in Leeds. I moved to work at a private hospital on the outskirts of Leeds called Fulford Grange. Both the Nuffield hospital at Horsforth and Fulford Grange at Rawdon offered ‘minor’ surgery but not complex surgery such as spinal, heart or reconstructive plastic surgery.

Cardiology patients could be seen and admitted as in-patients at both hospitals but there were no angiography facilities or critical care and intensive care beds. I therefore had to take my patients who needed angiography (stent procedures or balloon angiography) to London or to Manchester!

BUPA had been looking at Leeds as a hospital location for some time. As NHS waiting times for complex surgery were as long as 12 months in those days and public confidence in a new, private hospital would be greatly boosted by the presence of a high tech hospital with critical care facilities, BUPA decided to re-develop the former ‘Women’s Hospital’ in Roundhay to become the first private hospital in Leeds to perform complex heart surgery.

What have you enjoyed about working at the hospital?
Over the last 25 years, the hospital has continually invested in the most advanced technology and continues to undertake the most complex of procedures which makes the work extremely rewarding.The ethos is still based on consultant-led care - patients see the same consultant each step of the way and many of my patients have been seeing me for the full 25 years.

Dr Karen Simpson

Consultant in Pain Medicine

Dr Karen Simpson

Dr Karen Simpson is the longest-serving female consultant who is still practicing at Spire Leeds Hospital. She is a consultant in pain medicine which is a relatively new specialty and which has expanded rapidly in Leeds to provide services for the wider population of Yorkshire. She has worked in Leeds NHS for 30 years and at what is now Spire Leeds Hospital for 25 years.

What are the major innovations in your field of expertise over  the last 25 years?
Pain medicine as a specialty has grown enormously. It offers patients treatment and relief from chronic pain through the use of drugs and advanced new procedures.

This has a huge impact on patients’ lives. Many patients are now able to have small stimulators fitted into their spines which send electrical impulses to control pain.

This new area is called ‘Neuromodulation’ and is also extended to specialties such as urology and general surgery for treating other problems such as urinary incontinence.

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