The UK’s first hand transplant patient has welcomed plans to make the hospital where he had pioneering surgery a world class centre.
The specialist centre at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has secured NHS funding for hand and upper arm transplants.
NHS patients in England will become some of the first in the world to benefit from publicly-funded transplants.
And the news has been welcomed by former Lindley man Mark Cahill, 54, who was given a new hand in December 2012.
Former landlord Mark, who lives in Greetland, needed the transplant after being affected by chronic gout.
He underwent the complex eight-hour surgery and the success of the operation has paved the way for others.
NHS England has now given the hospital the go ahead to carry out assessments for more adult transplants from April.
Grandad Mark has regained almost complete use of his transplanted hand, allowing him to tie his shoelaces, carry his granddaughter and drive a car.
“My experience as a patient, and my quality of life since the hand transplant, has been fantastic,” said Mark.
“I would like to thank once again the family of the donor who gave their permission for me to have the hand of their relative at such a difficult time. It really has transformed my life.”
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Surgery has advanced so much that transplanted hands will, in time and with extensive physiotherapy, move with strength and dexterity, feel warm to the touch and heal themselves when injured.
The new centre will be headed up by consultant plastic surgeon Prof Simon Kay who carried out Mark’s procedure.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England’s director of specialised commissioning, said: “The NHS is leading the world in offering this cutting edge procedure, which has been shown to significantly improve the quality of life for patients who meet the strict criteria.
“We will be working closely with Prof Kay and his colleagues at Leeds, as well as NHS Blood and Transplant, to ensure that this highly innovative service for the NHS can get up and running as soon as possible.”
Due to the special matching required of donor limbs for transplant and the complex nature of the procedure, patients will be carefully screened for psychological and physical suitability.
It is thought that up to four people are likely to have transplants every year.
Approximately 80 hand transplants have been performed worldwide so far.