AFTERWORD Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it's a plan.

Doctor Who, Season 7, BBC Wales



There are few fields of human activity in which the advances of modern science and technology deliver such striking rewards as surgery, particularly cardiac surgery.

As Martin Elliott, Gresham Professor of Physic, UCL Professor of Paediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and Co-Medical Director of The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children points out, within just one professional lifetime, mortality rates in his field have gone from virtually 100% to single figures. That is, from almost everybody dying on or after the operating table to one in which almost nobody does – just since he has been working. Thanks to innovative practices and the application of new technologies.

Even in Martin's speciality, paediatric heart surgery, things have improved to such a degree that operating successfully on a 2 week old baby with a congenital heart defect – a ‘hole in the heart', say – is no longer the stuff of newspaper headlines, as it was a decade or two ago. It remains, however, an incredibly difficult and challenging thing to do for a living and something about which its practitioners are rightly proud.

And yet, Martin and his colleagues at Great Ormond Street Hospital continue to strive for new ways to improve their performance.

One part of this mission involves the ...

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