How a Leeds surgeon’s appeal to the YEP secured funding with a lifesaving heart legacy

David Watson with the groundbreaking Aspire heart valve he developed.
David Watson with the groundbreaking Aspire heart valve he developed.
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The Yorkshire Evening Post played a pivotal role in birth of heart research in Leeds.

Leeds surgeon David Watson MBE was tired of telling heart patients that there was little he could do to help them, knowing that the knowledge and expertise was out there but that research was needed to make it safe and practical.

In 1967 set up the National Heart Research Fund, now Heart Research UK, following a difficult operation on a boy with lifelong heart problems – but he could not get funding.

Mr Watson called on the YEP for help and after the paper helped in his appeal the phone began to ring and the charity was born. It came as the first heart transplants were carried out in the UK in 1968 but were promptly banned temporarily in light of poor results.

Heart Research UK funded the first ever hospital-based research laboratory in the UK at Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds for 20 years.

Mr Watson and his team developed a pioneering tissue valve in 1976 which is still used today and in 1979 the charity funded six of the first eight successful UK heart transplants, ending the temporary ban.

Heart Research UK has gone on to lead the way in funding innovative research projects into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

Since 1998, in Yorkshire alone Heart Research UK has spent £3,683,233 on research grants and a further £489,656 on local community grants.

This winter the YEP is teaming up with Heart Research UK for its Sing for Your Heart campaign, encouraging people to take part in singing events to both enjoy its health benefits and raise vital charity funds.

Why not organise a festive sing-song in aid of Heart Research UK this winter?

To get involved in the annual campaign, backed by the YEP, we are urging people to set up a singing event in Leeds and tell us all about it.

We are also calling for readers to submit their singing videos and pictures in a bid to raise awareness of the campaign. Email with your event details, images or videos.

You can apply for a free Sing four Your Heart kit from or by calling 0113 2347474.