This week, a small group of Year 13 medics were given the opportunity to go to Harefield Hospital, taking part in a fascinating course on heart disease led by some of the pioneers of this field. Harefield Hospital is part of the Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and along with another hospital in West London, makes up the largest specialist heart and lungs centre in the UK.


The day was led by the enthusiastic Dr Miles Dalby and was focused on understanding the causes, prevention and treatment of heart disease.The first session of the day was about heart attacks. We learned about the causes and symptoms of heart attacks followed by the risk factors and treatment options. We were lucky enough to hear a talk from Professor William Toff from the University of Leicester, who is a world renowned researcher and leader of clinical trials; he explained why resuscitation skills should be taught in all schools and why it is so valuable to know how to perform CPR in the unfortunate event of cardiac arrest. Every minute someone is having a cardiac arrest their chance of survival decreases by 10% without a defibrillator, this was shocking - pun intended - and made most of us realise how important it is to know what to do in the event of a cardiac arrest and the location of the nearest defibrillator as in these situations seconds really do count.

Following this we had the so-called ‘cardiac plumbers’ talk to us all about the heart valves and their associated problems. Led by Dr Heng who described the advanced procedures they can do to mend heart valves and how much they have improved over the years with new pioneering treatments such as MitraClip and TAVI’s. We were even lucky enough to be able to see an artificial valve up close which was fascinating, particularly seeing how precise and life-like it looked. This along with the speech from Dr Lane on heart rhythms and problems was consolidatory as it built upon our knowledge from A-Level biology giving us a deeper level of understanding into the heart and its more intricate details.

After our lunch break we were all excited at the prospect of trying out our resuscitation skills that we had learned in the morning. We arrived back in the room to find a dozen Annie resus dolls layed out. After a simulation played by the lead nurse showing us what to do in a real scenario, we got to practice in small groups on our own which we all thoroughly enjoyed despite it admittedly being physically quite fatiguing. From the group, four students were picked to go to the skills room and practise what to do in a real life situation on a dummy. This is commonly used by medical students when training and so it was streamed back with audio so we could see and hear what was happening. After a debriefing session on the positives and negatives we were able to get into small groups and talk to the doctors and other professionals about careers, which for me and many others was one of the most useful parts of the day. Hearing from a range of people including a junior doctor, consultants, nurses, professors and even a biomedical scientist gave us an abundance of insight about where we might be in the years to come and gave us the chance to pick their brains about questions related to their jobs.

Overall, the day was extremely informative and interesting, adding to our prior knowledge and equipping us with some of the fundamental practical skills that we may need for our future careers in medicine.