Jim steps in for tsunami

Pop knight foots bill for Leeds mercy medics

By Charles Heslett

Sir Jimmy Savile has paid for a Leeds medical team to fly out to the Asian tsunami disaster zone.

Thanks to the 78-year-old former DJ, a surgeon and two nurses from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will visit Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Surgeon Prof Shervanthi Homer-Vanniasinkam and the nurses will spend two weeks on a fact-finding mission and helping out with day-to-day surgery.

The Leeds Teaching Hospital's executive has given the team paid leave.

Said Sir Jimmy: "What I didn't want to do was send money to organisations which are already overrun with donations.

"I wanted to do something directly. I got in touch with my people at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and they were already in touch with a hospital in Sri Lanka.

"The team will be able to get stuck in with helping people injured in the tsunami."

Sir Jimmy has donated an initial 1,500 to the Trust's OPTIN (Overseas Partnering and Training Initiative) charity.

Mr Jake Timothy, consultant neuro-surgeon and spinal surgeon atLeed General Infirmary's Department of Neurosurgery said: "Professor Homer-Vanniasinkam, who is a consultant vascular surgeon for the Trust, originally hails from Sri Lanka.

"She was contacted directly by doctors who are working in some extremely difficult circumstances.

"Once the team returns we will have a much better idea of what the main health priorities will be and then direct any further funds appropriately."

OPTIN focuses on providing small projects in developing countries which result in sustained benefits.


Mr Timothy added: "We know there will be a lot of future work necessary, not just in the tsunami-affected areas, but other areas around the world.

"All our health staff in the Trust can contribute to sharing and teaching skills, and in return, we develop other skills that help us to be better professionals for our patients in Yorkshire."

The team is due to fly out early next month.

For more information about OPTIN, visit www.optin.uk.net.