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Press release
Thursday 13 January 2022

UHS celebrates best outcomes in Europe for stem cell and bone marrow transplants

Wessex Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy (WBMT & CT) programme team
Wessex Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy (WBMT & CT) programme team

Patients who undergo donor stem cell or bone marrow transplants at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) have the best outcomes in Europe according to a new report.

The European Blood and Marrow Transplant Organisation (EBMT) recently analysed outcomes from transplant units across Europe and have found the Wessex Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy (WBMT & CT) programme was the highest-performing centre for allogeneic (donor) transplants and third-best for autologous (non-donor) transplants.

A stem cell or bone marrow transplant replaces damaged blood cells with healthy ones and can be used to treat conditions affecting the blood such as leukaemia and lymphoma.

An allogeneic transplant involves taking healthy stem cells from the blood or bone marrow of a donor and transferring them to the patient, while an autologous transplant involves removing a person’s own stem cells, storing them and replacing them later.

Almost 4,000 bone marrow or stem cell transplants are performed in the UK every year, with just over 32,000 transplants across Europe as a whole.

In the EBMT report, data were collected from 395 transplant centres across Europe which looked at bone marrow transplant activity from all sites including disease indication, type of transplant, performance status, risk factors including other conditions and follow-up data.

Centres had to provide follow-up information on a minimum of 80% of their transplants for at least one year after the procedure, with UHS submitting information for almost 100%.

The analysis included all transplants reported over a five-year period, with survival at one year as the benchmark.

At UHS more than 86% of patients survived past a year post-transplant making it the top performer in Europe.

The data was risk-adjusted so that it produced an ‘even playing field’ to allow direct comparison of outcomes between all centres.

“It is clear that our centre in Southampton has performed extremely well and these outstanding outcomes are the result of the excellent work by an incredible transplant team supported by other specialists in UHS with the determination to provide the very best care for patients,” said Kim Orchard, consultant haematologist and director of the Wessex Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program at UHS.

“We know that if a patient survives past a year then their long-term outcome is much better. Our data shows that 86% of our patients are reaching this important milestone in their treatment which is fantastic news.

“The combined teamwork of our clinicians, the success of our quality management programme combined with superb data collection and completeness and the expert support from other specialities within the Trust have all contributed to these results.”

He added: “We have worked tirelessly to implement a quality management programme that maintains the highest level of excellence, which includes regular and ongoing audits, adhering to strict transplant standards and putting into place practical measures such as ringfenced wards to ensure this vulnerable patient group is protected. Patient safety and care are at the centre of the WBMT Quality Programme”.

“This has been even more important during the pandemic.”

The service, which was set up in 2001 and transplants over 200 patients every year, has coped during the pandemic by continuing the protective shield around inpatients as well as holding virtual follow-up clinics for its outpatients.

Dr Orchard said: “The success of our service and recent news of European outcomes data is very welcome indeed. UHS has consistently had excellent transplant outcomes since benchmarking began in the UK nine years ago and we are now top for bone marrow transplant outcomes in the UK – this includes all London hospitals and out of more than 50 centres across the UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland.”

Sarah Holtby, lead WBMT accreditation quality manager at UHS, said: “This is such a fantastic achievement and endorsement that our amazing and brilliant bone marrow transplant staff and wider UHS team consistently go above and beyond to ensure the very best care and outcomes for our very complex patients."

Dr Orchard and Mrs Holtby, along with Dr Deborah Richardson and Dr Christopher Dalley, are also inspectors for JACIE – Europe's official accreditation body in the field of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy which adds further expertise to the team in Southampton.

Sara Main, lead nurse for BMT and cellular therapy at UHS said: “It is certainly a team effort and we couldn’t achieve these amazing results without the dedication and hard work of all involved including our ward-based and specialist nurses in BMT, colleagues from the allied health professions, scientists and technicians, ward clerks and care co-ordinators, as well as our amazing domestic support staff who do so much – a huge thank you to each and every one of you for all that you do.”