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Top docs receive VITAL recognition

Foundation year doctors at Heartlands Hospital have been recognised for achieving outstanding results in a new and innovative virtual training scheme.

The training programme, designed to enhance patient care and further improve patient safety in hospitals, saw doctors starting out in their careers undertake a series of online training assessments in core areas of medicine.  Those with scores placing them in the top 20 percent were awarded a certificate and congratulated by Hospital medical director, Dr Aresh Anwar.

Known as VITAL (Virtual Interactive Teaching and Learning) for doctors, the scheme is part of the national Better Training Better Care initiative commissioned by Health Education England (HEE).90 Trust foundation year doctors took part in the programme which consists of eleven modules of online training in topics including falls, better nutrition, fluid management and early safe discharge to name a few, with self assessments, audio podcasts, and social networking forums to support their learning. 

Data from the scheme, collected anonymously, will be used to monitor any changes in doctors’ self assessments scores and improvements in prescribing data.

Foundation year one doctor, Katie Stout, achieved the highest score in the first phase of the programme across the Trust.  She said: “I think the VITAL for Doctors programme is an excellent way to improve and revise knowledge in the ward based setting.  It’s a bit different from medical school with the modules focused on skills that can be implemented on the wards.  I was surprised to achieve the highest score but really pleased with this result.”

Dr Aresh Anwar, said: “This is an important time for foundation year doctors at the Trust, and with this role comes the responsibility to be open, honest and willing to challenge and this requires some self reflection.

“To be taking part in this training programme reflects well on those doctors and sets them aside, so those that have done so well should be proud as it demonstrates professionalism and dedication.”

For further information about the programme contact the VITAL for Doctors team at

The future is brighter for many eye patients at Solihull Hospital thanks to a new corneal transplant service that is now available.

The new service enables local patients with reduced sight caused by conditions affecting the cornea of the eye, such as complicated cataract surgery and scarring from trauma and contact lens related infections, to have a transplant to replace part of the cornea as a day case procedure.

Once a suitable donor has been allocated, corneal tissue is replaced by consultant, Mr Amit Patel and his team at Solihull Hospital’s ophthalmology department in under two hours.

Implementation of the latest transplantation techniques using specialised equipment mean that most cases can be performed under local anaesthetic which results in a rapid recovery.  For some eye conditions, patients experience an improvement in vision within a few weeks whereas traditional surgery would have normally taken one to two years.

The newer techniques also allow selective replacement of the diseased portions of the cornea rather than the entire cornea. This reduces the risk at the time of surgery and also the risk of transplant rejection.

Mr Amit Patel, consultant ophthalmologist, said: “Introducing the corneal transplant service at Solihull Hospital has already helped give 14 patients improved sight with approximately 50 patients likely to have this procedure each year.  As only a local anesthetic is needed, patients are home the same day and often notice a difference to their sight within a few short weeks. In addition to the short stay and quick recovery, the newer techniques are also safer for the patients.”

Donald Boon, aged 74 from Erdington was the first patient to receive a corneal transplant at Solihull Hospital.  He said: “I was in two minds about whether to have the operation on my damaged cornea, but the team  were so supportive and if I had not had it, in time my sight could have failed in that eye.  Eye sight is precious and I am so grateful to Mr Patel and his team for this procedure which has improved my vision.  I’m very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to have this transplant which means I can get about and live my life fully.”

Locals who would like to enquire about whether they are eligible for a corneal transplant should discuss possibility of referral with their GP.

There were smiles all round at Good Hope last week as the Hospital held a special celebration to mark five years of life-saving fundraising for premature babies.

A fantastic £516 was raised for the Special Care Baby Unit at the Hospital from the day, with cake sale and tombola. Mums and babies past and present came along to celebrate the fantastic job the staff on the unit do saving lives.

Fiona Howes, lead nurse on the Special Care Baby Unit, said: “We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came along on the day, from the mums and babies who are now doing so well, to everyone who came along and donated generously. The money will go a significant way towards our patients and help us continue to provide the very best care to the mums and babies we have here on the Unit.”

“The money will go towards the Trust Charity and its appeal, Newborns in Need, which has raised over £150,000 for the neonatal units at both Good Hope and Heartlands Hospitals. The fund was set up to support the care of premature and sick babies at the Hospitals. Each year, the Hospitals care for over 1,000 babies from the region who need specialist care to keep them alive. Some babies are born four months early and weigh as little as one pound.

With around 300,000 people having a heart attack each year, and heart disease  affecting one in four men and one in every six women; Good Hospital is hosting a public seminar on the heart and CPR techniques.

The talk, hosted by consultant cardiologist, Dr Beth Freestone, will look into symptoms and the affects of heart disease, as well as giving essential information and advice on treating heart-related conditions.  Senior resuscitation officer, Robin Davies, will demonstrate how the first aid technique, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be used if someone is not breathing properly or if their heart has stopped.

Beth said: “Coronary heart disease is the country’s most common cause of death, causing around 82,000 deaths each year.  There are an estimated 2.7 million people living with the condition and 2 million people affected by angina, the most common symptom of coronary heart disease, a and the risk of getting heart disease increases as you get older.

Members of the public who attend the seminar will be able to get expert advice and tips on what preventative measures can be taken and what symptoms to look out for, as well as what treatment options are available.

The event is taking place at Good Hope Hospital on Thursday 2 May in the Hospital’s education centre from 5pm.  To book your place or to find out details of the Hospital’s future health seminars, contact Sandra White on 0121 424 1218 or email:

With diabetes being the one of the leading causes of blindness in the UK, locals are invited to attend a free health talk to learn about diabetic eye disease and what happens during an eye screening appointment.

 Birmingham Heartlands Hospital’s clinical lead for diabetic retinopathy screening, Dr Margaret Clarke and her team will be hosting the event on 30 April and offering information and advice about the eye disease and answering all of your questions.

Dr Clarke explains: “The diabetes eye screening programme has approximately 121,000 eligible patients on the database and we screen just over 90,000 (75 percent) across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.  By having regular screens, early diabetic eye changes can be detected, aiding swift diagnosis and timely treatment where appropriate. This is when treatment is most successful. Unfortunately one in four diabetes patients in the region do not have these vital screenings.  

“I would encourage anyone interested in finding out more about diabetic eye disease and the screening process to attend this seminar.”

A patient who has been through the screening programme at the Hospital will also answer questions from the audience giving their perspective of the screening journey.
The seminar is taking place on Tuesday 30 April at 5pm in the Education Centre at Heartlands Hospital. To book your place or to find out details of the Hospital’s future health seminars, contact Sandra White on 0121 424 1218 or email

Medics at Heartlands Hospital are raising awareness of disorders in which part of the body’s immune system does not function properly.during world primary immunodeficiency week on 22 – 29 April.

As many as one in 500 people may have an immune deficiency, and many can be unaware that symptoms such as frequent or severe infections can be linked to an immune system disorder.  Often running in families, there are over 150 primary immune deficiency diseases and symptoms can be displayed early on in life but also occur for the first time in older children or adults.

Most immune deficiencies can be identified through simple blood tests, and with early diagnosis, treatment can be given to maintain good health.

Heartlands Hospital immunology consultant, Dr Aarn Huissoon, said: “Many people have persistent coughs, colds and recurring infections, particularly children but true immune deficiencies are uncommon. GPs can very easily carry out simple blood tests which will pick up over 80 percent of all immune deficiencies. If immunodeficiency is diagnosed, the patient can be offered treatment to prevent infections and help the patient lead a normal life.”

Case study

Mr Marston’s daughter, Harriett, aged four was diagnosed with the primary immunodeficiency, IRAK-4 in 2012.  The family live in Bromsgrove and Harriett is one of eight to nine cases in the UK with this rare disorder.  IRAK-4 deficiency is an inherited disorder of the immune system which leads to recurrent infections.  Most people with this condition have their first bacterial infection before age two, and the infections can be life-threatening in infancy and childhood. Infections become less frequent with age.

Mr Marston explains: “At nine months old, we noticed Harriet had a swelling on the right hand side of her neck.  We thought she had toppled over, but then it disappeared.  She then got the same swelling again at aged three years and nine months.  We went to the Hopsital to get it checked but there was no conclusion answer so she was booked for an MRI scan.

“Three days before the scan, the lump got much worse and we went to the A&E department of our local Hospital.  Harriett ended up having the lump removed which was an infected abcess.  She had blood tests but there were no markers why she was so poorly.  Heartlands Hospital immunology consultant, Dr Scott Hackett looked into the case and when her test results came back, he identified that Harriett had an extremely rare condition called IRAK-4 deficency.  This condition means Harriett is unable to fight off infections and can be life-threatening.  These infections can happen quickly and as one of the symptoms is that a fever is not developed in response to the infection it can be hard to identify how seriously ill Harriett is.  I fear that without the expertise of the doctors at Heartlands it may have gone undiagnosed.

“Harriett now has daily antibiotics to fight off bugs before they appear and immunoglobulins, which are blood products at home via a small pin in her leg once a week.  We see this as being like a protective shield to some extent.  It’s a comfort to know we have a care plan to deal with this condition.  I couldn’t speak highly enough of those that treated Harriett.”

Locals are invited to enjoy a series of music events taking place in the heart of the city to mark this year’s World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on Sunday 24 March.

With more than 500 active cases diagnosed in Birmingham in the last year alone; the free welcome to Birmingham project event supported by Heartlands Hospital, the LINK TB action group and Health Protection Agency (HPA), will raise awareness of TB and the importance of getting potential symptoms checked out as soon as possible. These symptoms include having a cough for longer than three weeks, fever, night sweats, loss of appetite and weight loss.

The event, which takes place on Sunday 24 March from 12-4pm at Victoria Square, will include a musical extravaganza of African and Asian community bands whilst medics will be on hand from the Hospital to answer questions and provide information and advice about TB.

Heartlands Hospital is holding a special celebration to mark the 5th birthday of its charitable fund, Newborns in Need, which has raised over £150,000 for the neonatal unit.

Mums and babies both past present are invited to celebrate the occasion which will feature a large birthday cake and some fantastic raffle prizes to help raise more vital funds for the unit.

The event will be launched by local mum Lisa Abercrombie from Solihull, and her son Oscar who were treated on the unit. Lisa said: “The Hospital has been wonderful, and treated not only Oscar, but my elder daughter Holly’s baby too. It’s a pleasure to support this appeal and for all the future mums benefitting from the wonderful work the Neonatal Unit does. We can’t thank them enough for the excellent treatment we have received.”

Local Mum, Jade Jarvis, from Sheldon, gave birth at 27 weeks to her son Mylo, and both were treated at Heartlands Hospital Neonatal Unit. Jade said: “Without the Neonatal Unit, Mylo and I would not be here today. This is such a great cause; ensuring babies have a much brighter future. The Neonatal staff were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and their dedication was incredible.”

The Newborns in Need fund was set up to support the care of premature and sick babies at the Hospital. Each year, Heartlands and Good Hope Hospital care for over 1,000 babies from the region who need specialist care. Some babies are born four months early and weigh as little as one pound.

For more information, contact the fundraising department on 0121 424 3838 or To donate to Newborns in Need visit

With nearly 500 active cases of TB in Birmingham in the last year, specialists at Heartlands Hospital are urging locals to get coughs lasting longer than three weeks and other potential symptoms of Tuberculosis (TB) checked out. 

Although the number of TB cases has stabilised in the region in recent years, partly thanks to awareness through school visits and community talks; medics at Heartlands are still seeing a large number of cases within the multi-culturally diverse population in the local area. This is thought to be due to the condition being infectious and spread easily between families and larger numbers of people who choose live together in close proximity.  The disease, which affects mainly the lungs, can cause a person to become very sick if not treated. 

Dr Martin Dedicoat, Heartlands Hospital’s infectious diseases consultant, believes that by raising awareness of the symptoms, along with early diagnosis and prompt management will help tackle the increasing number of cases of TB. He said: “It may only seem minor to have a cough, but if it’s been around for more than three weeks, it’s worth getting it checked out by a GP.  A lingering cough along with having a fever, night sweats, loss of appetite and weight loss could potentially be symptoms of TB.  With treatment, a TB infection can usually be cured.”

World Tuberculosis Day is taking place on 24 March and specialists at Heartlands Hospital will be available in the Hospital’s crush hall on Thursday 21 March to answer questions on the condition and the symptoms and signs locals should look out for.

The Hardwick Arms in Streetly has raised an amazing £5,000 for some of the most vulnerable patients in the region.

The money was raised over 9 weeks at the pub’s regular Wednesday night quiz night, with all the funds, along with donations from regulars going straight to the Special Care Baby Unit at the Hospital and towards life saving equipment for poorly and premature babies.

Nigel Oseman, Quiz Master and Kitchen Manager at the Pub, said: “It’s an honour to be involved in supporting our local Hospital. We had a lot of fun raising the money and our regulars got really into the spirit. It’s great to be able to give something back and make a big difference.”

Fiona Howes, Lead Nurse on the Unit, said: “We wish to thank everyone at the Hardwick Arms for this extremely generous donation. The money will go a significant way towards our patients and help us continue to provide really top class care to the mums and babies we have here on the Unit.”

Each year, Good Hope Hospital and Heartlands care for over 1,000 babies from the region who need specialist care. Some babies are born four months early and weigh as little as one pound.

For more information on how you can help raise money for your local Hospital, contact the Fundraising Department on 0121 424 3838 or To donate to Newborns in Need visit

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