Saving Lives in Leeds had exclusive access to one of the largest trusts in the UK

Saving Lives in Leeds (BBC2, 9pm)

The fifth series of Surgeons: At the Edge of Life concluded last week, but its place in the schedules has been taken by another documentary that gives viewers an insight into the difficult decisions faced by Britain’s medics.

Filmed in 2022, the eight-part Saving Lives in Leeds had exclusive access to one of the largest trusts in the UK, taking in seven hospitals across five sites in the city.

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It hears from some of the trust’s world-leading doctors and surgeons as they battle the waiting lists to transform the lives of their patients.

Professor Phil Wood, Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust says: “Saving Lives in Leeds really shines a light on the outstanding people working at Leeds Teaching Hospitals carrying out remarkable and world-leading surgery.

“It highlights some of the challenging decisions they make on a day-to-day basis as they work to ensure our patients get the best possible care. It’s been a really positive opportunity for us to explain the complexity behind some of the decisions we take when managing waiting lists and highlight that we always have our patients’ best interest at the heart of everything we do.”

The series will also explore the patients’ emotional journeys and the impact their treatment has on their families.

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In the opening episode, viewers are introduced to Professor Simon Kay. He’s a world-renowned pioneer in hand surgery who leads a unit at Leeds General Infirmary, which is the only hospital in the UK to specialise in Hand Transplantation. Since the first surgery in 2012, Professor Kay had performed 14 transplants on eight patients for both single and the rarer double hand transplants.

One of the people on his waiting list is 38-year-old Jamie, who lost all his limbs after being electrocuted at work in 2016. He currently uses prosthetic legs and arms, but as a single dad to five-year-old twins, that has frequently been a struggle. He’s been waiting for a double hand and forearm transplant for more than two years, and in this episode, the call has come in that a potential match has been found.

Both Jamie and Professor Kay know that it’s a high-risk operation and that even if the surgery is successful, there is no guarantee that it will work long term. But if it does, the results could be life changing.

Meanwhile, in neurosurgery, consultant Kenan Deniz is faced with two patients needing life-saving surgery – 49-year-old Karen, who has a potentially cancerous brain tumour, and 72-year-old Jean, who has a swelling aneurysm which could be fatal if it were to burst. However, with just one post-operative bed confirmed, he faces a tough decision about who to operate on first.

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Meanwhile, in Leeds Children’s Hospital, Orthopaedic Consultant Adelle Fishlock takes Declan into theatre. The 13-year-old has been waiting a year for his hip surgery and has already been cancelled twice, but when the operation proves to be more complex than Fishlock anticipated, will she have to cancel another patient?

Professor Simon KayProfessor Simon Kay
Professor Simon Kay