Children's heart unit in UK's first hospital 'Twitterthon'

Members of the public will get a rare insight into one of the country’s leading children’s heart surgery centres through the UK’s first hospital ‘Twitterthon’ today (Friday).

From surgeons and nurses, to play specialists and the ward clerk, they will all play their part in bringing life on the ward and in theatre at Southampton General Hospital to followers on microblogging website Twitter for 12 hours from 8am.

There will also be the opportunity to meet and track some of the ward’s current patients and families and find out about complex congenital procedures performed on premature and newborn babies up to early teens on the unit by internationally renowned paediatric cardiac surgeon Marcus Haw and his colleagues.

The online experiment comes a week after the launch of the NHS safe and sustainable four-month public consultation into the future of children’s heart surgery across the UK, which will see the 11 current units scaled down to six or seven larger centres.

Despite being rated by experts, led by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, as the second-highest performing centre in England providing this service and the best outside of London, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust is included in only one of four options available.

“Twitter is the perfect medium for capturing all the activity on a busy ward, as we can update followers in real time and even post live pictures of the things that are happening, the staff and patients and our facilities in a way not attempted before,” said web editor Liz McWilliams.

There are currently more than 10,000 patients with congenital heart disease either directly under review in Southampton or seen in partnership with the south of England referring network and, during 2010, Southampton performed 404 congenital heart surgery procedures, with 338 on children aged 16 or under.

Dr James Gnanapragasam, consultant paediatric cardiologist, added: “We want to invite people everywhere to follow us and gain the first exclusive insight into one of the country’s leading heart units, while promoting our message of how essential it is for people across the country to support us and ensure this world-class facility continues to thrive long after the consultation process.”

To catch the day's events, follow @SUHT and the hashtag #oceanward or visit

More information on the review and the consultation is available at

Posted on Friday 11 March 2011