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“As a physician I came to heal, and in helping I became more…a tradesman, a manufacturer, a financier, a sociologist and an administrator. And no one has helped me more than many of the men I tried to help.” Sir Pendrill Varrier-Jones (1883-1941) - physician, social pioneer and founder of Papworth Village Settlement.*

Whilst in more recent years Papworth Hospital is more associated with clinical excellence in the delivery of cardiothoracic services most notably heart and lung transplantation, its history is fascinating and unique.

Prior to the First World War, up to 75,000 men and women were dying each year from tuberculosis. The disease was considered to be a threat to national efficiency, and “one of the most formidable enemies of the race” - Sir George Newman, Chief Medical Officer, 1919.*

Following research at Cambridge University and his appointment in 1915 as Tuberculosis Officer for Cambridgeshire, Varrier-Jones concluded that the welfare of the tuberculous patient depended not only on appropriate treatment but also a nourishing diet and access to plentiful supplies of fresh air. It was these conclusions that led first to the establishment in 1916 of the Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony in the village of Bourn, and later in 1918 further expansion at Papworth Hall. Patients came for more than a spell of treatment and brief rehabilitation; they had access to financial support and paid work thereby facilitating longer-term treatment and recovery from the disease. Varrier-Jones developed the Papworth Industries to provide employment for the patients. The industries were financially very successful and expanded right up to 1957 (and included the coachworks manufacturer of the Green Goddess fire engines). After this date the principle of supporting people into independent living was extended to a broader range of disabilities, leading to the creation of The Papworth Trust.

The hospital itself was inherited by the newly formed National Health Service in 1948. Papworth Hospital quickly established itself as one of the region’s leading hospitals initially developing thoracic surgery followed by cardiac surgery and cardiology. In 1979, Papworth Hospital gained national attention when Sir Terence English performed the UK’s first successful heart transplant.

* Papworth Hospital and Village Settlement - Pendrill Varrier-Jones’ Dream Realised, by Dr Eleanor Birks. (Published by Papworth Hospital, 1999).


1918 Papworth is founded as a colony for people with Tuberculosis - a ground-breaking place which  becomes famous for its treatments and for helping people to return to work after convalescence
1948 Papworth becomes part of the newly founded NHS
1962 Papworth performs the first artificial heart valve operation on a patient
1967 First cardiac pacemaker procedure carried out
1979 UK’s first successful heart transplant operation takes place at Papworth Hospital
1982 Papworth starts coronary angioplasty procedures
1984 Europe’s first successful heart-lung transplant is performed at Papworth Hospital; and first in the world  for the chronic use of Prostacyclin for the treatment of primary pulmonary hypertension in humans
1985 World’s first transbronchial biopsy is undertaken to detect rejection in lung transplants
1986 World's first heart, lung and liver transplant takes place at Papworth Hospital
1988 Papworth’s first single lung transplant
1991 First implantable defibrillator procedure carried out at Papworth; and first in the world for the  application of Nitric Oxide in humans for patients with primary and secondary pulmonary hypertension;  Papworth’s first bilateral lung transplant
1992 Papworth’s first Ventricular Assist Device operation; Papworth’s Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre opens
1994 Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre opens
1996 Papworth carries out its 1000th transplant
2001 UK National Centre for Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy surgery established
2006 Papworth performs the UK’s first beating heart transplant, using the Organ Care System
2010 First subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator at Papworth
2011 The UK’s first Total Artificial Heart patient discharged home.
2000th transplant performed by Papworth Hospital surgeons.

2015 Europe's first successful heart transplant using a none-beating heart


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