Congenital heart disease is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart and great vessels. Congenital means a condition that is present at birth.

The number of adults known to have congenital heart disease continues to grow rapidly. This reflects the combined success of children's cardiology, children's heart surgery and specialist care in adulthood.

Although most of these adult patients are well, they are at risk of complications specific to their condition. The majority will need long term follow-up at a specialist centre. This is the reason for specialist cardiology services for adult congenital heart disease (ACHD), which is also sometimes known as grown-up congenital heart disease (GUCH).

The ACHD Unit: An Introduction

The specialist Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) service at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust provides a regional (Level 2) cardiology service for the management of adult patients born with heart disease. Our ACHD team consists of specialist cardiology consultants, clinical nurse specialists, experienced physiologists, radiologists and a dedicated ACHD team co-ordinator.

Working alongside Norfolk and Norwich Hospital NHS Foundation Trust we form the ACHD service for the whole of East Anglia, including Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Together we provide care for adults (aged 16 years and over) with congenital heart disease across the region. 

We also work closely with a number of other hospitals within a wider network; particularly the Rosie Maternity Hospital and the Paediatric Cardiology Service at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.  

Our main hub (Level 1 ACHD centre) is the specialist surgical and interventional ACHD centre at the Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London. This is the centre to which we send most of our patients who need complex interventions or operations.