Major Trauma Open Evening at Southampton General Hospital

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The focus of the evening was the many, multi-team services that are available at Southampton General Hospital by reason of the hospital being designated as a Major Trauma Centre, servicing a very extensive area across the South Coast, stretching from Dorchester to Brighton and going North as far as Basingstoke and extending South to incorporate the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. Southampton General Hospital is one of only 12 hospitals in the country which has been dedicated as a Major Trauma Centre for both adults and children.

The evening was chaired by Mr Andy Eynon, director of major trauma and consultant in neurosciences intensive care, who gave us an overview of the thinking behind the setting up of these units, as well as an insight into the facilities and equipment available at our local hospital. Mr Eynon is clearly an advocate in these modern times for the setting up of specialised expert Centres such as this at strategic points around the country, to ensure that patients who find themselves victims of major incidents, sustaining multiple injuries, have ready access at one site, within a reasonable travel time radius of the place of injury, to the many experts that they may need on-hand. The dedicated trauma team incorporates consultants in the fields of trauma, intensive care, neurology and neurosurgery, and cardiology. Support is obviously also available from supporting members of the medical and nursing staff.

The Wessex Neurosurgical unit at Southampton is well known locally, both to the general public and within my profession, as a centre of excellence for patients who have suffered serious spine or head injuries, who require emergency assessment and surgery, to stand a chance of surviving these incidents with their quality of life intact. However, these patients have very often also suffered additional internal and orthopaedic injuries requiring intensive and life-saving support and Mr Eynon made a convincing argument for the regional centralisation of these services. As a resident of Southampton though, I appreciate that I may well be more easily swayed by these arguments than residents of areas further afield!

We were also provided with an entertaining and informative talk from Dr David Sutton, consultant anaesthetist at Southampton General, and head of critical care medical support to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight (HIOW) Air Ambulance Service. We had a grand view of the relatively new helipad above the main car park at the hospital, from the refreshment area outside the Wessex Heartbeat Educational Centre, where the presentation was held. Dr Sutton is an avid supporter of the service, and of the benefits that having trained trauma medics on board can bring. It was explained later during the question period (not by Dr Sutton himself, who was far too modest) that although the NHS Trust seconds Dr Sutton to the service a few times a month, he gives up a lot of his own spare time, along with many other volunteer medics, to be available to support the work of the HIOW Air Ambulance Service, which depends entirely upon charitable donations. The helicopter run by the service, means that patients from even farther afield, can be located and transported to a fully equipped major trauma unit, or other specialist facility, within critical time frames.

Dr Sutton provided us with details of real life local rescues and patient transfers that he had been involved in, which really had been life-saving for the patients involved. His talk was concluded, from his sitting position and with leg suitably elevated, with an explanation as to how his own leg came to be broken during a recent rescue expedition with the helicopter, which gave him a rather unique perspective of the service, not just as a medic, but also as a patient!

Perhaps the star of the evening though, had to be former patient Mr Roger Bell. Mr Bell explained that his work background is in both the military and property, although by all accounts, he has had his fair share of encounters with medical professionals throughout his life. These included, but are possibly not limited to: surgical emergency in infancy; major skiing accident with multiple injuries; rugby injuries; horrific riding accident and more recently a motorcycle accident which lead him to Odstock (Salisbury) Hospital, the local specialist plastic surgery centre.)

Mr Bell was here primarily that evening to discuss his experience of both the HIOW Air Ambulance Service and the Major Trauma Centre a Southampton, following a terrible riding accident in 2010. As a consequence of a hidden divot in the New Forest, Mr Bell's horse, who was not a small specimen, "cartwheeled" as he put it, discarding his rider, and unfortunately then landing upon Mr Bell. Mr Bell suffered a severe crush injury to his spine, significant internal bleeding and no doubt numerous other orthopaedic and soft tissue injuries. He described being assisted by a thankfully knowledgeable member of the public, who cleared his airway whilst doing all that was possible to maintain the position of his spine, and call for emergency services. Mr Bell was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital and was received by the Major Trauma Team, headed by Mr Eynon, to whom he attributes saving his life.

Thankfully Mr Bell survived and made an extremely good recovery in time. He is now an ardent supporter of both the Trust and in particular the HIOW Air Ambulance Service. Poignantly, Mr Bell and the other speakers also gave thanks to Mr Nick Boeree, Consultant spinal orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton until his very sad and premature death in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. Mr Boeree had performed the complex spinal surgery on Mr Bell, which enables him to stand, walk and lead his life to the full again today.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening's presentation and look forward to attending the Open Day at the General Hospital planned for 29 September, and the subsequent talks in the fields of urology and diabetes, later in the year.

Some people may find it strange, that as a clinical negligence solicitor working in the local area, I find no conflict in being a public member of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. However, we all, I believe, have a common goal in improving patient safety and the standard of care and treatment that is provided on a daily basis to members of the public through the NHS.    

Kym Provan
Associate - Clinical Negligence team

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