Celebrating 30 years of pioneering liver surgery

Hundreds of former cancer patients were at the heart of a very special event which celebrated 30 years of pioneering liver surgery at Basingstoke hospital.

Wednesday 08 August 2018

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More than 500 people travelled from near and far, including Italy and France, to attend the milestone event, and around 300 were former patients of the trailblazing team of consultant liver surgeons Merv Rees, Tim John, Fenella Welsh and Ben Cresswell.

The eldest surviving patient is Richard Nichols, now in his late 80s who was operated on 28 years ago. He and all the other former patients were delighted to be part of a memorable evening which showcased how the Basingstoke liver surgery team are still leading the way on a medical journey that started in the late 1980s.

Mr Rees told the gathering at The Ark Conference Centre: “This is a very special day – I am overwhelmed to meet so many former patients in one place, some of whom I have not seen for 20 years.”     

Mr Rees gave an insightful talk about the history of liver surgery, and spoke about how the unit at Basingstoke hospital, which is now part of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was created.

He recalled how he pioneered the procedure of liver resection in the United Kingdom when many medical professionals said that it could not be done. Liver resection involves the surgical removal of a part of the liver to remove cancer – liver cancer is usually a secondary condition that has spread to the organ from a primary cancer in another part of the body.

After learning about the bloodless operating technique from eminent surgeon Johannes Scheele in Germany, Mr Rees brought the practice to Basingstoke – a development that has drastically increased survival rates for patients, with more than 3,100 patients operated on to date.

Miss Welsh highlighted the many contributions from the Basingstoke team that have changed practice worldwide and have improved so many aspects of patient care.

Both Mr Rees and Miss Welsh emphasised the vital support for innovation and research that has been given by local fundraisers, North Hampshire Medical Fund, Pelican Cancer Foundation, Innovation UK, and their patients.

Mr Rees paid tribute to the former patients, who have raised more than £150,000 to help pay for equipment and research, and members of the MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) who are involved in various aspects of each patient’s care. He also recognised the significant contribution of the support staff who play key roles in compiling and producing vital patient information and data.

“We know that we are only as good as our next case,” he said. “We have developed a pretty impressive team, and we are privileged and humbled to look after people with really tough problems. We have always wanted to give people hope, and we are on a mission to be brilliant every time.”

After the presentations in The Squire Lecture Theatre, everyone gathered for a Champagne celebration, and there was the added treat of listening to a wonderful performance by members of Basingstoke Hospital Male Voice Choir.

Mr Rees, who is president of the choir, enjoyed doing a spot of conducting before he cut a cake that had been specially commissioned by former patient Derrick Tyler.

The choir presented the liver surgery team with a £500 donation and many of the guests at the event also gave donations.

“I am grateful to everyone who has been involved in making Basingstoke a beacon of excellence for liver surgery, and I am delighted, and honoured, that so many of our former patients were able to be here for this unique and memorable celebration,” said Mr Rees.

Click here to watch a video of the event. 

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