BBC Hospital


Episode One:
The Westminster attack

shehan hettiaratchy1

The opening episode focuses on the aftermath of the attack on Westminster bridge, following the moment a major incident was declared and how the incredible staff at the major trauma centre coped with it, treating victims and the perpetrator.

St Mary's Hospital has one of London's four major trauma centres and it responds to over 2,600 calls a year. It’s helped save lives in some of London’s worst emergencies, from the Paddington rail disaster in 1999 through to the 7/7 bombings and of course, the Westminster bridge attacks.

Shehan Hettiaratchy, the Lead Surgeon and Major Trauma Director with the Trust who featured heavily in this episode, spoke to the charity about how the major trauma centre deals with an incident like this:

“We’d been expecting a terrorist attack in the UK for 6 months and assumed London had to be one of the most likely targets. It arrived and then you then switch into a well-rehearsed plan and that worked very well.”

“We have a major incident plan; we’d been rehearsing for having a far greater number of casualties than this. We prepare by practicing scenarios, practicing the pathways and practicing how we respond.”

“Everyone performed really well, it was all very smooth, very slick and I think they performed how I’d expect them to given the professionalism that exists within our centre, all the trauma centres around the country and the NHS in general.”

In recent years, we’ve been proud to support the accident and emergency department that dealt with the tragic attack and we’re constantly awed by the vital work they do in the face of extraordinary pressure.

£3.5 million upgrade for A&E at St Mary's

Patients visiting A&E at St Mary’s will now benefit from improved facilities and an increase in treatment areas for the most serious cases following a £3.5 million refurbishment, fully funded by the charity.

The renovations have resulted in:

  • an increase in the number of resuscitation bays - where seriously ill patients are stabilised as priorities - from four to six
  • a new four-bed paediatric assessment unit within the children’s A&E department to provide dedicated facilities for children who need further investigation to determine whether they should be admitted or discharged
  • improved patient pathways with the creation of a new assessment area
  • a redesigned reception area to offer more privacy and a better patient experience
  • a new area where friends and families can wait in private

Dr Ali Sanders, Chief of Service for emergency and ambulatory care at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said:

“The upgrade will provide more spaces for assessment and treatment of our most critically ill and injured patients and a more efficient working environment for staff. This will mean faster pathways for patients, in better surroundings and with greater privacy.”

Major Trauma Appeal

MTC croppedThe appeal, which ran from December 2013 until January 2016, raised almost £1 million for the major trauma centre at St Mary’s.

100% of the money raised in the appeal went directly to fund greater patient care. From research and training to vital new equipment, every penny is being spent to save the lives of people suffering from some of the most severe injuries possible.

Hettiaratchy praised the appeal: “We’re massively appreciative of everything the charity has done for us. Everything the charity provided is being used every day to good clinical effect, it’s made a big impact.”

The initiatives funded by the appeal include:

Belmont Rapid Infuser

This piece of equipment cost £13,000 and it’s an invaluable part of the major trauma centre, allowing staff to quickly transfuse blood and fluids into patients at high volumes and much faster than was previously possible.

“It’s a really important bit of equipment,” said Hettiaratchy. “We get a lot of people in our trauma centre who have had penetrative trauma, particularly from knife cuts, a real problem in this part of London. We have a large number of people who rapidly need to have blood volume replacement.”

“We saw that with some of our casualties from the Westminster bridge incident and I think the Belmont Rapid Infuser really makes a big difference to what we can deliver quickly. It’s state of the art and that’s where we want to be.”

Helping patients with head injuries get their lives back on track

We partnered with the brain injury charity Headway to hire a specialist support worker to give patients and their families practical advice and emotional support, as well as help with accessing support networks, benefits and referrals to other services.

Ruth Dixon Del Tufo, head of major trauma and emergency pathways, said: “The clinical team does an amazing job but after that the patients have got the whole of the rest of their lives to recover emotionally and physically. The Headway worker is a link worker that can unlock things – give them access to other charities and resources.”

Tackling youth violence in London

A partnership between us and the youth work charity Redthread is helping young people involved in violence to turn their lives around by connecting them with youth workers while they’ve recovering in hospital.

Asif croppedDr Asif Rahman, a consultant in emergency medicine, who appeared throughout this episode of Hospital, described how important such an initiative is:

“Some of our boroughs have high levels of youth violence and gangs. We’ve always had them coming in, but the trauma centre means we get the really injured. When a young person comes in with stab or gun wounds the extremity of the violence gets people thinking about what can be done about it. “

“Hospitals are a very good place for that ‘teachable moment’ – where we can start that process, get involved with these kids who can then be linked into their community. It’s about forming that bridge so that when these young people leave the hospital, they stick with these programmes and don’t come back here.”

Hettiaratchy agrees, praising the effectiveness of the project:

“It’s been a really good initiative. We have a real problem with knife crime among adolescents and it’s really important for Redthread to intervene.”

“We often get people who’ve been stabbed once come back in again and often when they come back in, they’re dead. If we can break that cycle and break into their mindset and change their behaviour and change what people do to each other then it’s good. Prevention is always better than any kind of cure.”

Giving back to the A&E department

We’re proud to support the incredible staff at the St Mary’s A&E department and will continue to do so. If you’d like to get involved and show your support to those who deal with some of London’s worst crises, please visit our fundraising page to find out how you can donate, take part in one of our regular fundraising events or organise your own. 100% of the money raised by the charity goes back to improving patient care around the Trust.


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