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Mr Richard Page retires after 40 years at LHCH

Mr Richard Page pictured fourth from left on his final day with his operating team yesterday.

It’s been almost 40 years since Mr Richard Page, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, first stepped foot into LHCH, then known as the Regional Adult Cardiothoracic Centre (RACTU), as a Senior House Officer (trainee doctor).
A nationally respected surgeon who has given so much to his patients, their families, colleagues, and the NHS, is about to start his well-deserved retirement, but leaves behind a fantastic legacy of which we’re all proud.
We had the pleasure of meeting Mr Page to chat about where it all started, his memories, and his future plans. 

Can you tell us how you came to work here at LHCH?

I’d studied in Liverpool and during my time at medical school I had worked over at Broadgreen Hospital  at various times between 1979 and 1982.

In 1985, I was looking for a job and I had two interviews planned.  I didn’t get the position in Manchester, but Professor Ray Donnelly, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon, offered me a short-term role here for six months.  After this, I got a job back in Manchester where I was living, but then two years later, I was appointed as a registrar here in Liverpool and have stayed ever since!

Why did you want to become a thoracic surgeon?

During my time in Manchester, I always wanted to do general surgery, but gradually realised that I wanted to specialise in cardiothoracic surgery.  I was really pleased to become a cardiothoracic consultant here in 1994.

At the time, there was a great need for thoracic (lung) surgery and when Professor Donnelly retired, I gave up cardiac (heart) surgery to focus solely on thoracic surgery.  There were three of us doing specialist thoracic surgery, which was quite unusual as most centres had cardiothoracic surgeons rather than specialists focusing on the one field.

Can you tell us about your national work?

When I gave up cardiac surgery, to specialise in thoracic surgery, colleagues across the country were surprised.  It was unusual at the time, and there were very few dedicated thoracic surgeons who were my age.  This decision I made ended up bringing about a lot of good things for me and I was often contacted for my clinical opinion by colleagues from across the country.

How has our services developed over the years?

In the 1990s smoking was rife and there was almost no research to try and improve outcomes for patients.  Professor Donnelly, who was also the Medical Director here, had a vision to change this.  He founded the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to carry out ground-breaking research in many aspects of lung cancer.  This research assisted with the design of many lung cancer clinical screening programmes currently available today.

In 2000, the NHS Cancer Plan was introduced, and this formalised the requirement that every patient with cancer should have a multi-disciplinary team discuss their diagnosis and treatment. 

Our services started to expand to continue to meet the demand and support treatment of lung cancer.  As you would expect, lung cancer surgery is urgent and therefore the service cannot have long waiting lists.

It was different when I first started out, but increasingly over the years our team of thoracic surgeons have worked increasingly closely with chest physicians and oncologists around radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, with the aim of providing the very best care for the patient possible.

Proudest moments?

I am very proud of this hospital and what we have been able to achieve for patients. I’m also proud to have worked alongside so many excellent colleagues here. 

One of the things I am most proud of, was being elected President of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery.  I must have had a lot of support to be elected and I really enjoyed working with colleagues nationally to make a difference.

At one time we offered oesophageal cancer surgery here at LHCH and I would receive referrals from across a wide catchment area.  Some of the patients I was able to help had not been offered treatment elsewhere, and one such patient went on to form a local Oesophageal Patient Association Group.  I am particularly proud of what we were able to do for this patient, her family and for many others just like her.

What’s the future for thoracic surgery?

I will miss the place, but I know I’m leaving the service in a very strong position. Unfortunately, lung cancer is not going to go away and so there will be more and more patients to care for.  It’s a growth speciality.

There are opportunities for us to support other patients.  For example, the fluid around a person’s lungs can become infected and patients often present to A&E departments at other hospitals.  This is something our LHCH colleagues have the skill and specialism to help with.

What are you looking forward to?

I work part time currently and have enjoyed long weekends off, and so I am really looking forward to enjoying more of the same.

On behalf of everyone here at LHCH thank you to Mr Page for your exceptional service over so many years.  You have helped to save countless lives, impacted so many families and made such a difference to the treatment of lung cancer - not just here in Liverpool, but across the country and beyond!