SCOTLAND  could become a world-leader in the care of adults born with heart defects following the major expansion of a national unit with internationally renowned specialists.

Dr Gruschen Veldtman, formerly of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the USA has been appointed to the Scottish Adult Congenital Cardiac Service (SACCS) which is based at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank, where the most complex surgery is carried out.
Dr Veldtman, helped set up a centre of excellence for the speciality in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia.

The unit will be bolstered by Consultant Cardiologist Dr Lorna Swan, who has worked at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and Toronto General Hospital in Canada, which is considered among the best heart centres in the world.

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Two other specialists have been appointed, including Dr Hamish Walker,  who has expertise in MRI imaging.

Dr Swan said having five congenital heart specialists gives "Scotland a major advantage" because it will allow the team to upskill other hospitals to offer care to patients closer to home while Dr Veldtman said the national service now boasted a combination of good clinical service and academic potential which he said was "very rare".

According to latest figures in Scotland, there are approximately 18,240 adults (age 16 and over) who have congenital heart disease (CHD), which is in the spotlight this week in a world-wide awareness campaign. Around 10 per cent deemed to have complex conditions - and the figure is rising every year. 

Historically, very few children survived to adulthood but outcomes for patients have been transformed by diagnostic and treatment advances over the last few decades. However patients require life-long care and repeat and complex surgical interventions.

HeraldScotland:

(L to R Dr Gruschen Veldtman, Dr Lorna Swan, Dr Niki Walker, Dr Hamish Walker and Dr Amanda Hunter)

Two other specialists have also been appointed to the team; Dr Amanda Hunter, who trained at NHS Golden Jubilee and the Royal Brompton, and Dr Hamish Walker, who previously worked at the Golden Jubilee and renowned centres in Southampton and Leeds.

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Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Niki Walker, Clinical Lead for SACCS, said:  “Children born with congenital heart disease are now surviving well into adulthood, often requiring further care and interventions. 

"Thanks to this expansion in our team, we will now be able to offer a wider clinical service at the Golden Jubilee and support more outreach clinics. 

HeraldScotland:

"This is especially important in the current pandemic. 

“SACCS has always been committed to the highest possible standard of care, and with these high calibre additions to our team, we now have a huge opportunity to deliver a world class service to benefit the patients of Scotland.” 

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Dr Lorna Swan, who has been a Consultant Cardiologist for 15 years added: “With this level of expertise there is a real opportunity to capitalise on international best practice and innovative methods as we have worked in other fantastic units and can bring all of our experience together into this one specialist unit.

“Our model gives Scotland a major advantage. We can now offer additional bespoke outreach care at regional centres and help upskill them to offer care to patients near to their home, while the more complex treatments are still carried out at NHS Golden Jubilee. 

"We also have a highly regarded, specialist nursing team, which is an advantage other centres in the world do not have.”

The unit works closely with the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, which treats children with heart problems up to the age of 16.