In 1979, Sir Terence English began the transplant programme at Royal Papworth Hospital and on the 18th August performed the first successful UK heart transplant.

Keith Castle, who was 52 years old at the time, lived for a further five years thanks to his transplant. This was regarded as the first successful heart transplant as previous patients who had received a heart transplants at National Heart Hospital in London in 1968 and 1969, had only lived for a few weeks post-transplant.

Keith Castle’s son (in white shirt) was invited to meet and celebrate the anniversary with surgeon Sir Terence English at Royal Papworth Hospital on the 19th August. Richard Worthington (blue jacket) was also invited to celebrate 35 years since his own transplant in 1984 at the age of 20 years old. Richard is one of the longest surviving heart transplant patients in the UK.

John Forsythe, Medical Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

“We would like to congratulate Royal Papworth on this fantastic milestone - celebrating 40 years of successful heart transplantation is a superb achievement.”

“But we need to remember that transplantation couldn’t take place without donation. And it’s thanks to the generosity of donors and their families who say yes in the most desperate of situations, that so many lives have been saved or transformed.”

Sir Terence English recalls how he was met with criticism and resistance from medical professionals before proving that heart transplants could be successful with Kieth’s operation.

“There was tremendous resistance to heart transplantation. That included a letter from the Department for Health at the end of 1978 saying there would be no funding and the moratorium on heart transplantation would be continuing.”

“I eventually managed to get approval and funding for two transplants, and the success we had with Keith allowed us to generate more funding, from the National Heart Research Fund and small grants from the DoH, to ensure the heart transplant programme in the UK could become what it is today.”

In the last four decades, Royal Papworth Charity has supported the research and treatment of almost 1,900 heart transplants (including heart-lung), by raising funds for the development of the Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD) programme, which has increased organs available for transplants, giving our patients a combined 14,500 extra years of life. Since 1968, there have been 8,400 heart transplants (including multi-organ transplants) in the UK.

Royal Papworth Charity recognises the pioneering work that patients receive at Royal Papworth Hospital and is dedicated to ensuring the Hospital continues to provide the highest standards of care by supporting their research to improve treatments available. In collaboration with community events and various fundraising methods, Royal Papworth Charity are proud to support the Heart and Lung Research Institute that aims to uncover new, ground-breaking treatments for heart and lung disease worldwide.