Jon Cuthill looks at what is at stake should the region lose its specialist child heart unit. Plus, the residents of a tower block put the idea of The Big Society to test.
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Hello and welcome to Inside Out. I'm here, you're there, so what's
coming up? On tonight's programme... We're going to put him out with gas
and air and then say goodbye. surgery for the south under threat.
Southampton General Hospital fights to keep its life-saving unit.
seems a great shame to move the services away from where the
patients are. We put the Government's Big Society dreams to
the test. That looks fantastic. It's for the community. I like to
put a bit back. But is this high rise, high-problem block in
Portsmouth up for the challenge? Tower blocks are the ruination of
family life. Do you think we can change it? I don't think you can.
And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...
Yeah, it's going well. I'm getting very wet. Moving home, big style.
Killers of the deep head to Berkshire. It's just making sure
they are happy in their new environment. This is Inside Out
First tonight, imagine the stress as a parent if your child has a
heart condition. Add to that the threat that the very unit which
could save your child's life may be about to close. That is exactly
what is happening here in Southampton. We have been behind
the scenes to see what is at stake. Meet two-year-old Harry Rogerson.
His dad, Ben. And mum, Cerys. Harry may look like a healthy boy, but he
has a very unhealthy heart. It is very difficult sometimes to put the
heart condition together with the personality of the child, because
he is such a life force and he deals with it all so well. It is
very inspiring for me to watch him. Harry was born with transposition
of the great arteries, which meant blood flowed round his heart the
wrong way, causing a lack of oxygen. Harry will need a series of
complicated operations during his childhood to keep him alive.
Nothing is ever very straightforward with these things.
Extremely complex, what they're trying to do with Harry. Anything
can happen. When they're telling you that his heart is fundamentally
malformed, and he is going to need a big operation to fix it, it is at
extreme odds with that happy, smiling little fellow in your arms.
And he is going to be kind of made ill. We're going to put him through
an operation. He will feel dreadful. Harry is having his life-saving
heart operation at Southampton General Hospital. The children's
heart unit rates as the top performing centre outside London.
Right, I've got your special medicine. 300 children born with
serious heart conditions are operated on here every year. There
are what ifs. Of course there are what ifs that wind you up. But it's
the things that I know are going to happen. But I don't think he
realises it. For the next day or two, he will feel very ill. When he
goes downstairs, they're going to put him out with gas and air and
Harry is about to have a valvotomy - an operation to widen the
narrowed valve. This will help increase the blood flow through his
struggling heart. The operation will take three and a half hours.
There is a long wait ahead for his 15-year-old Hallam Stuckey from
Wareham is also a patient here. Like Harry, Hallam was born with
transposition of the great arteries. He had major surgery as a baby, but
now needs a life-saving operation to replace a failing valve. I'm 15.
I enjoy just hanging out with my mates. Gaming. That sort of thing.
I enjoy cycling to work. I work down a cafe. I go to a public
school in Wareham, doing history, geography, more GCSEs. And short
course French, which I'm terrible at. I just generally tend to forget
that I have a heart problem. I feel like any other normal kid. But
surgery is going to be a little scary. I've got my little brother
over there. He's OK. But he's not getting anything in the will. I'm
joking, he can have that! It's had quite a devastating effect. There's
no point pretending this kind of thing isn't upsetting. It's very
hard to come to terms with. It's a serious operation. But you have
just got to put a lot to the back of your mind and get on with it. If
everyone mopes around, everyone will be upset all time and that is
not really good for Hallam. He needs to be as positive as possible.
We all do. On the children's cardiac ward, the team is preparing
Hallam for a long and complex operation. Marcus Haw will be
performing the surgery. He has been operating here for 14 years, but
there's never anything routine about open heart surgery. The heart
is growing. The volume of the heart is increasing faster as you're
getting bigger. So that means there is a situation where the leak is
beginning to stretch the heart. We wanted, really, to get a solution
for you that fixes you for everything you want to do but also
lasts you potentially for the rest of your life.
This major operation is not without its risks and Marcus has to explain
them all. If anything acute were to happen,
any part of the body can be affected. Southampton is one of 11
children's cardiac units in the country.
The government says it is looking to improve services across the UK
by merging children's heart surgery into fewer but larger and better
performing units. But better performance comes at a price.
Almost half the surgical units may close, including Southampton. The
NHS group believes skills are spread too thinly around the
country and that these changes, although tough, will improve
quality of care for children. Everybody agrees that we need
bigger centres and that we can improve things and make them more
sustainable in the future by having the centres, but nobody wants it to
be their unit to change. Everybody has built up a unit and it has been
through hard work, teamwork and putting their heart and soul into
it. It is understandable that people do not want to change that.
But it is the right thing to do. We need to make these difficult
decisions about which units will continue doing the same things in
the future. But surgeons here are concerned about the effects of
breaking up local teams. You can't just send them to different centres
all over the country and expect them to perform in exactly the same
way. Different units are different. This team has taken decades to
assemble. It has evolved. It has not just been placed. It has
evolved over 40 years. It's very difficult to actually keep
everybody together and move them. Harry's operation is over. First
thing to say, Harry is safe. We have finished the operation.
The valve will now keep him healthy until his body is fully grown.
Eventually, he will need a complete valve replacement. It's all smiles
for Harry's parents, but for Hallam's mum, the wait is about to
OK, you will feel that going a bit tight on your arm. Give him a kiss.
He is off to sleep. I think he is! Good night. I will see you in a bit.
Marcus is going to replace one of Hallam's leaky heart valves with a
mechanical one made of carbon. It is a delicate and complicated
procedure, made even more difficult by scarring from previous
Hallam's heart goes into an abnormal rhythm. Shock. Go for it.
Quickly. OK. Good. Well done. it is reset and the operation
continues. The first thing you feel is that you're sorry for the
patient to have to go through it. You feel a number of different
things. You do not feel emotional, but you feel very proud of the team
that you work with because you know you can do this effectively.
Hallam's blood is now circulated by machine. His heart can now be
stopped so the valve can be fitted. Sometimes, you have to pinch
yourself to think, gosh, we are really doing this! It is a very
unusual type of work to do. Obviously, you train over decades
to be able to do this sort of work. The new valve should last forever,
but Hallam will have to take blood thinning drugs for the rest of his
life. Every part is vital.
If you get the diagnosis wrong, you don't interpret things right, make
the wrong decisions, then it can be a disaster. It is a very well
controlled process. The operation has taken five hours.
Hallam is moved to paediatric intensive care. If the children's
unit is closed, half the beds in here will disappear.
The consequences of the closure of the cardiac surgical unit will mean
that the resources available to critical young children across the
south coast will be reduced dramatically. This unit has
developed over the last 10 or 15 years to be one of the best
children's intensive care units in the country. It was not always here.
We will return to a situation which the children of the south
experienced 10 or 15 years ago. They're very much more likely to
have to be moved to Bristol, London or Birmingham for the care they
need. It has been three weeks since the
surgery and Hallam is making a speedy recovery at home. But he
knows if he needs another operation, it may not be at his local hospital.
The wonderful thing about the service in the UK at the moment is
every unit's population is doing a superb job. That is great. The
problem is that is not sustainable in the future and that is why we
have to change. We have to look people in the eye and tell them
they're difficult decisions, but they must be made. We have a
responsibility to children in the future to take these difficult
decisions now. We should find out by the end of
the year whether Southampton's unit will stay or go, but in the
meantime, good luck to young Harry and Hallam.
This idea of a Big Society is starting to get interesting, given
the cuts we face here in the region. People power will save the day,
according to the politicians. We thought we would put that to the
test. Handsworth House in Portsmouth.
Built with the high-rise dreams of the post-war era. Full of the low-
down problems of modern life. 154 flats over 17 floors. A complete
little society, if you like. What better place to try out the
Government's plans for a Big Society? I moved here in 1965. I
was in an old house and never had no bathroom. I came to a place like
this. It was like a palace. year-old war veteran Cyril Wheelan
has lived here ever since the flats were built. It was good. All the
people in the flats, you knew everybody. Everybody. Now, it has
deteriorated. I don't have no conversation with anybody on this
floor. And I like talking to people. I would say good morning or it is a
cold day, and they don't want to know. Do you think we can change
it? I don't think you can. I don't think you can. Well, if anyone can
change things, it is this man, Gerry Stoker. He is the person who
helped come up with the idea of a Big Society. It was his research
that has been taken up as a mantra by the Government. The Big Society
is about a huge culture change, creating a country that feels like
a community to try and build a bigger and stronger society. People
call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society. If you're going to
create the Big Society, you need people with skills and resources.
That is not evenly distributed in our society. You also need to
recognise that people need to be asked in the right kind of way,
which encourages them to get involved. Our work is focused on
the practicalities of creating the Big Society, often in very
difficult circumstances. Circumstances I find at Handsworth
House. It does look quite foreboding in some ways. But it is
a good test, because if you can create the conditions for the Big
Society here, you can probably create them virtually anywhere.
Gerry will be coming to the Handsworth coffee mornings. This
weekly event is the only get- together for the entire block of
flats. It is here that the woes of the estate are aired by the few who
bother to turn up. Tower blocks are the ruination of family life.
You can go three months without actually seeing a neighbour. People
are no longer interested in their neighbours, in loyalty to
neighbours, in friendships with neighbours. We had six warrants in
here last week for drug dealers and doors being smashed in. We should
not have to live like that in our old age. This community room used
to be in use every single day of the week. Monday was the gymnastics
class I used to take. Tuesday was stroke club. Wednesday, a be used
to have a tea dance. Thursday was bingo. Friday, I used to do a
really big coffee morning and we used to get 40 people to do the
raffle. It was good then, but I want to get it good now. I don't
think it will ever go back to that. Really? No. Why? Because you've got
too many different cultures and too many different age groups. The
youngsters don't want to come down and sit down there with the old
wrinklies like us, do they? But Big Society expert Gerry Stoker doesn't
think it's an age issue. The modern generation, just as much as the old
generation, value caring for others and looking after their community
and trying to make a wider contribution to society. But we
live in a much more pressured society. I actually think it means
that we have to work a lot harder on creating the conditions for the
Big Society in today's world, compared to the 1950s. This is the
fifth floor. We get trouble sometimes with rough sleepers here.
Do they sleep in the hallway? usually go in the back stairs. But
the worrying part is the children. One man was thrown out the window
at the other side of my landing. Poor old me, I had gone over in the
morning to get my paper and I walked in there to put my rubbish
in the bin and I thought there was red paint dripping on me. No?!
I looked up and saw this arm and leg hanging over the parapet. It
was blood. Gerry is going to help us make
things better. But you have to want things to be better.
Gerry has a huge challenge - selling his Big Society to the
unhappy coffee group. What are the things which do actually give you a
chance to come together? The coffee morning. The coffee morning. We
could maybe build on that. What about if we had some sort of lunch
where people could bring different things together, kind of like a
community picnic. So, a resident's buffet meal seems
the popular choice. All those in favour?
Aye! OK, well, that is pretty unanimous!
Posters go up, invitations go to every single household, so that
three weeks later, on the day of our Big Society meal, I am hopeful
that apathy may give way to expectation.
Has anyone been talking about the lunch? Yes. Do you think they're
going to come? Yes, I don't see why not. If they don't, they're nut
cases. As mouth-watering dishes appear, it seems some residents
have really got into the spirit of being good neighbours. Can we have
a sneaky peak? Wow! Look at that. We have some rice. And then down to
the 10th floor, because we have two fresh quiches that have just come
out of the oven. Is it nice to see people talking? Yes, it is. That
looks fantastic. What is it? Lasagne? Yes. The amount of food
being donated is astounding. Don't worry about me, I'm fine! And most
of it seems to be coming from hard- up pensioners, for whom every penny
counts. I didn't have to come up but when it's for the community, I
like to put a bit back. That one is vegetable curry. This one is beef
stew. The end one is a Jamaican pork curry. What we have tried to
do is just a little lunch. The whole idea is to see if we can
build something that will last and give them a way of working with one
another and making a better community for themselves in the
long run. Although the room is full, it is mostly local volunteer groups
who have come to lend support. They're outnumbering residents
three to one. I'll be honest, I'm a bit disappointed. On the basis of
153 flats, 17 floors... There weren't a lot turned out from this
block. Yeah. It's like the old army days, isn't it? There is still a
good vibe, even if only the coffee group regulars and a handful of
others have come from the flats. Yet again, it is the older
residents who are willing this to succeed. Most of their younger
neighbours have stayed away. I only thought it was going to be
sandwiches. I didn't expect this. This is what was wanted.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the people who are keen on doing
something, they are involved, they are engaged, but it's getting that
wider community involved that is much harder. That is why, when his
activists step forward, we need to think hard about how we can support
them, and give them the strength and courage to carry on in very
hard circumstances. People start to leave.
The piles of lovely prepared food go mostly uneaten and the kind
chefs who made such an effort head home.
Those two are pillars of the community. They worked so hard to
try and get everything off the ground. But it is an uphill
struggle. If there were more people like those two in the world, the
Big Society would be easy. Sadly, it appears there aren't. People
outside are more friendly. I wish they would get together and get to
know each other more. Then you could have parties and more of that.
But they won't. They're all stick Don't forget to tell me what's
happening where you live. E-mail me at this address.
They say moving house is as stressful as it gets. Don't believe
a word of it. Moving sharks in a lorry from Weymouth to Windsor is
as bad as it gets. You have to be as cool as a sea cucumber.
This ambitious project has been two years in the planning. The aim is
to fill this massive aquarium with over 50 species of shark, ray and
tropical fish. All of them are coming from Weymouth. The man in
charge of welcoming the new arrivals will be Iain Grieve.
we're doing here is just checking all of the levels to make sure that
when the fish come, there is enough water, so we can move the water
from the truck into the aquarium. Everything looks OK. We're good to
go for the fish transport. Meanwhile, in Weymouth, where some
of the fish have been bred, preparations for the moves are
under way. It is Chris Brown's job to make sure all the sharks are
ready and fit for travelling. Is there a risk moving them? There
is always a risk moving animals. It is the most stressful time for them.
We have had years of experience of this and we really know how to
reduce the stress levels to the animals. This lot have not been fed
for a while, have they? Not for three days. This is very important.
If you move an animal once they have just been fed, they might be
sick into into the tank or produce waste, so the water will get dirty.
This would affect the animal. Altogether, they will be moving
over 250 fish tomorrow, including a dozen sharks and 25 stingrays. It's
all about timing, isn't it? Once the clock starts ticking, that's it.
Once we move the first fish and its transport container, for that
animal, it is a race against time to get it to the aquarium as
quickly as possible. It is 5:05am. The trucks are here.
The clock has started to tick. The sharks are about to be moved.
The team is split into two, with one half having to pack over 200 of
the smaller fish and the others are moving the rays and the sharks.
How's it going? Yes, it's going well. I'm getting very wet. Which
is normal. Lots of pressure. don't want to be the ones letting
the side down. So pack like mad men for the next couple of hours.
It is essential that everybody keeps to time so the fish do not
stay too long in the transport tanks.
Just watch your foot there. These are the ones with the stings, so we
have to be careful where they are. That is why we're using long-
handled nets. The team has kept to their timing
and the fully loaded truck is Ethically, I strongly disagree with
animal circuses and that side of things. I certainly wouldn't have
any of our animals performing tricks. That is the opposite way to
the way we want to go. Lots of people don't ever get the chance to
travel abroad or to go scuba-diving to see some of these wonderful
creatures and to see what is happening underwater. We're
bringing that to the UK so that the children can actually experience
I am hoping for some nice energised rays swimming round. Perfect. Very
We're just going to try and send them off out into the main body of
the tanks so they have lots of space to swim round and orientate
themselves. As they are introduced, you are watching their behaviour to
make sure everything is good. What you looking for? It is important
that when we move them from the lorry to the tank, that is their
highest stress point. We hold them still so they have a chance to get
used to their surroundings but be in the safe confines of the net.
Once they have calmed down a bit, we release them. We want release
them so they go straight into the main body of the tank. How long
before they are really comfortable in their new surroundings?
ideal thing to tell you is really when they start feeding. That is
when they are truly happy in their home and feel relaxed enough to go
on the feed. That would take two or three days, really. Lovely.
So we're kind of halfway through the unloading now. Rays and sharks
and smaller fish have all gone into the tank. It is just making sure
that they're happy in their new This is it, Chris. It will be very
exciting see this one swim off into its new home. The final one.
fact that they are feeding so early, does that mean that they're quite
settled? Yeah, it means they are relaxed enough to feed. Sometimes,
they won't feed for three or four days after transport. This shows
that they have settled straight away, which is just the kind of
news I want to hear. A perfect end for you? Absolutely fantastic.
And I bet they all taste delicious with chips. That's it for tonight.
I will see you next week. We ask what would you do if squatters
invaded your home. It that they have changed the locks and they are
Will the South lose its specialist child heart unit? Jon Cuthill looks at what's at stake if it goes. We test the idea of the 'The Big Society' with people living in a tower block, and an operation to move hundreds of fish and sharks from an aquarium to a new home.