Kingsbridge invest £3m in NI’s first private cardiac surgery service and ICU

The new unit is set to be a ‘game-changer’ in alleviating the pressure on the NHS
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Kingsbridge Healthcare Group (KHG) has launched its private cardiac surgery service - the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Following a £3m investment into building the operating theatre and intensive care unit (ICU) and purchasing highly specialist cardiac equipment Northern Ireland’s leading independent healthcare company has successfully treated its first seven patients.

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In the process, 12 new clinical and administrative jobs were created to facilitate the treatment of major life saving cardiac surgery as well as other specialist surgeries at Kingsbridge’s flagship hospital in Belfast.

Kingsbridge Healthcare Group (KHG) in BelfastKingsbridge Healthcare Group (KHG) in Belfast
Kingsbridge Healthcare Group (KHG) in Belfast

Essential to the cardiac surgery service was the creation of NI’s first private ICU, named the ‘Jim Dornan ICU,’ after Professor Jim Dornan, one of the founding consultants at Kingsbridge who sadly passed away in 2021.

The cardiac service will initially include treatment of the five most common cardiac surgeries performed namely cardiac bypass surgery for blockage of arteries, mitral and aortic valve repair and replacement surgery and atrial septal defect closure in adults. As the service is more established, more complex procedures will be added.

The cardiac surgery service was launched by its first cardiac patient Brendan Doyle who had a lifesaving Mitral Valve Repair surgery in January 2022, an operation he had been waiting on since 2016.

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As of December 2021, 369 patients in NI were on the waiting list for cardiac surgery with around 107 patients waiting for more than six months. This is despite approximately 200 people a year being transferred to private hospitals in the south of Ireland to facilitate timely emergency surgery.

Cardiac Surgery UnitCardiac Surgery Unit
Cardiac Surgery Unit

Dr Suresh Tharma KHG co-founder said this was the culmination of many years of meticulous planning to implement a comprehensive private cardiac surgery service in NI.

He explained: “We know how much pressure there is on cardiac surgery delivery in NI, and until now patients like Brendan, have had to travel to Dublin or GB to have life-saving surgery. It is hopeful that the cardiac surgery service in Kingsbridge will assist the NHS in providing a solution much closer to home, which would benefit the patients and their respective families.”

Ashok Songra, KHG co-founder, continued: “We have world-class surgeons and specially trained support staff at Kingsbridge to deliver on this need and believe this unit is a game-changer in alleviating the pressure on vital NHS capacity and is already being accessed by patients locally as well

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as from the rest of Ireland and GB. Aside from the obvious logistical and convenience factors, retaining the intellectual surgical skill sets and funding within Northern Ireland will have far-reaching long-term benefits.”

KHG co-founders Mr Ashok Songra and Dr Suresh TharmaKHG co-founders Mr Ashok Songra and Dr Suresh Tharma
KHG co-founders Mr Ashok Songra and Dr Suresh Tharma

Brendan Doyle (47) from Ballymena, added: “I was told I would have to wait up to at least a year on my surgery in the NHS so you can imagine the worry. However, my consultant spoke to me about the new Cardiac Surgery facilities at Kingsbridge, and that is when we contacted them to see if they could help me.

“It really has been life changing for us as a family. I feel like a new man and cannot wait to go on holiday with my wife and two young children this summer, as well as get back to work as soon as soon as I receive the go ahead from my clinicians.”

Brendan’s wife Caroline knows only too well how fortunate he was to be able to receive his life saving cardiac surgery at Kingsbridge.

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She sadi: “Brendan’s condition went from being minor to severe in just a matter of months and I could see him getting more tired and weaker each day. He is not a man that complains but I knew his palpitations were getting worse, so every time he left the house to go to work, I used to feel sick to the pit of my stomach with worry about him in case he took congestive heart failure while waiting for his operation.

“In the end it was thanks to my occupational private health cover that we were able to fund Brendan’s surgery. I know we are very privileged to have been able to do this, but it was literally a matter of life and death for our family.”

Oc Nzewi, a renowned and respected recently retired, cardiothoracic surgeon in Belfast heads up the clinical governance and clinical leadership of the service and has been involved during the development of this service from incubation to delivery. He has also vast experience of working in a private cardiac surgery unit in England.

Mr Nzewi concluded: “I am proud to be involved in a local game-changing service in NI which will make a difference to its people. Having set up a similar service in his hometown of Nigeria through his charitable foundation; he is confident this cardiac surgery service will be a


Kingsbridge is the only healthcare group in Ireland to have hospitals in both NI (Belfast and Ballykelly) and in the RoI (Sligo) with plans to expand further over the coming year.

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