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Royal Brompton confirmed as national centre

21 November 2011

Royal Brompton Hospital has been named as one of only five hospitals in the country that will offer extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to adults in an initiative that positions England as one of the leading countries in the world for the provision of this treatment.


ECMO oxygenates the blood outside the body when the lungs are not able to. It is anticipated that around 160 people may need such treatment each year. As one of the five UK ECMO centres for adult patients, Royal Brompton will work with other hospitals to treat up to 30 patients at any one time.


Dr Simon Finney, adult intensive care consultant at the hospital, said: "We have been providing specialist ECMO services at the hospital for many years, and provided extra capacity over the last two winters. Formal recognition as an ECMO centre will support us to deliver a comprehensive range of treatment for patients. As one of the country’s leading respiratory centres, we can provide expert opinion from our specialist teams in respiratory medicine, cardiology, imaging, and thoracic surgery, allowing us to care for patients with the most complex and serious respiratory conditions.


"ECMO is a co-ordinated effort and has involved training critical care staff to provide this highly complex treatment. We have seen and transferred patients from around the UK in previous years, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, and can bring together, in one place, the technology and the expertise of our staff to provide the best care possible.”


Royal Brompton opened its ECMO unit in 2009 providing a crucial critical care service for vulnerable patients from across the UK. During the swine flu outbreak in 2010, intensive care experts travelled around the country to ‘retrieve’ critically ill patients who could not be treated with ECMO at their local hospital. Staff provided complex life-saving care on the road and in the air during transfers.


Announcing Royal Brompton as an ECMO centre, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "ECMO is a very specialist treatment for people who are so severely ill with flu that their lungs aren’t able to work properly. England is one of the leading countries in the world in the provision of this treatment. Through this expansion of ECMO capacity, the NHS will be able to save lives if life-threatening respiratory conditions strike.”


Experts from Royal Brompton contributed to a recent study showing patients with respiratory failure caused by H1N1 (swine flu) who were treated with ECMO had a better survival rate than those who did not receive this therapy. The paper published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the number of deaths in patients referred for ECMO was almost half that of similar patients who were not referred for ECMO during the H1N1 pandemic in winter 2009-2010. Royal Brompton worked in partnership on the study with colleagues from other hospitals and the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC).


The five hospitals designated as providers of ECMO support for adult patients are:

  • Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

  • Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

  • Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

  • University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust

Read about our severe respiratory failure service

Royal Brompton

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8121