Prior to 1984, patients at the Northern General Hospital, in Sheffield, who had undergone open heart surgery were discharged home 12 – 14 days after their surgery with no follow up support other than a 6 weeks outpatient appointment to see the Consultant Surgeon.
At the outset the primary objective of SHOC was to provide an organised system of volunteer support to patients and relatives on the wards, waiting for surgery. This has remained a central feature of the organisation. In order to provide this, a volunteer rota was developed and people who had previously undergone cardiac surgery attend the ward to talk to patients.
To help with the period after surgery, meetings were set up by nursing and social work staff. These meetings were held for the benefit of patients and relatives to provide advice and discuss issues relating to their recovery. The content of the sessions covered general recovery, exercise, medication, healthy eating, employment issues and stress management. The relevant members of the cardiac rehabilitation team at the hospital delivered the sessions.
The patients and relatives had found it very helpful to be able to share experiences following their surgery and wished to continue the friendships and the valuable support they had gained from the sessions. In view of this a meeting was held later that year (Nov 1984) consisting of a number of patients and staff. The outcome of which was the formation of an informal social support group. This was extremely successful and the group still continues to meet socially once a month. This was the beginning of Sheffield Open Heart Club (SHOC) which achieved charity status on 8th May 1987 (Registered Charity No. 518812) and now has approximately 300 members.
A small amount of fund raising is also carried out for the benefit of cardiac patients. This is used to purchase specialist equipment, not normally provided through usual hospital funding systems. It is donated for the benefit of patients in the Cardiothoracic Unit at the Northern General Hospital, and also for initiatives which assist cardiac patients with their recovery.