Wigan doctor retiring after 53 years 'worked all hours' to transform patients' health

When a young doctor heard about people in Wigan struggling to get treatment for heart disease, he knew he had to do something about it.

Dr Nayyar Naqvi had already spent five years working as a junior doctor in the borough’s hospitals and had moved to Wythenshawe Hospital to learn about cardiology.

But he was shocked to discover how poor heart health was for Wigan residents in the 1970s.

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He said: “Every Wednesday afternoon we had a general cardiac meeting with other surgeons and if ever there was a heart which was beating at only 10 per cent, when it should be at over 80 per cent, they would say that’s Wigan heart syndrome.

Dr Nayyar Naqvi

“I was so ashamed. I thought if ever I came back, I would change it.”

And that was exactly what Dr Naqvi did when he returned to Wigan in 1979.

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He dedicated the next 42 years of his life to transforming the heart health of people living in the borough, setting up a cardiology service and ensuring patients had the best care possible.

Dr Naqvi said: “I have done my best to serve the public of Wigan to the best of my ability. I hope I have managed to do that.

“People were dying. When I came back to Wigan in 1979, people were dying from heart disease and nobody cared. I though this was not fair. Why should cardiac patients in Manchester or London get the best service and the poor Wiganers don’t?

“That’s why I worked so hard to start up a cardiology service that’s one of the best in the country. Now Wigan patients have the best care available.”

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Dr Naqvi started his cardiology department in a small room at Billinge Hospital, where he was given three basic machines by the cash-strapped health authority.

A few months later the Wigan Observer published an article about his plans to set up cardiac services and a letter was sent by patient Peggy Byrne, who suggested starting a fund for Dr Naqvi’s work.

Initially he worked single-handedly for 12 years, doing everything he could to help to save lives.

He said: “I worked all the hours God gave me, not just doing general medicine but setting up cardiac services. I worked weekends and nights. I had to do my cardiac catheters at Wythenshawe Hospital at first.”

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Dr Naqvi fought to have his service moved from Billinge to Wigan Infirmary, so it would be on the same site as the A&E unit, and eventually he was given a two-room department there.

In 2000, he finally opened a full cardiology department, which now offers a range of services for patents in Wigan, as well as Bolton and Salford.

There are all kinds of facilities there, including laboratories and a coronary care unit, and a team of more than 100 staff.

Dr Naqvi said: “Now the cardiology department in Wigan is second to none.”

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Over the years he raised a total of £3m, all of which was used to improve cardiology care for people living in the borough. He is extremely proud of the work he has done over the decades and the difference he has made in Wigan - but could not have done it without the support of people in the borough.

He said: “I am very proud of it. It’s my baby and I have set it up. I worked extremely hard. I have fought many battles, but I have done it.

“The public of Wigan have been very supportive. They realised what I was doing and have been so generous to my fund.

“There was no coronary care unit in Wigan when I came. I used to share a five-bed intensive care unit in Wigan. I went to the public of Wigan and set up my first Heartbeat appeal and finally in 1983 I opened a four-bed coronary care unit in Wigan. Now we have an 11-bed unit which is state-of-the-art and fantastic.”

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Dr Naqvi’s work has been recognised both in Wigan and further afield.

He is a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh, the European Society of Cardiology and the American College of Cardiology. He has written many papers and presented them all over the world.

He has been honorary clinical teacher at the University of Manchester’s school of medicine and British Heart Foundation lecturer, as well as honorary senior lecturer at University of Central Lancashire.

And in 2004 he returned home from a holiday to discover a letter had been delivered from the Prime Minister’s office, proposing he receive an OBE.

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Dr Naqvi said: “I was the first in the history of Wigan Infirmary to get that honour. I went to Buckingham Palace and Prince Charles gave me the OBE.”

A star in his honour was placed on Believe Square, in Wigan town centre, by council bosses and in 2019 he was given a regional lifetime achievement award as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

But it is now the end of an era as Dr Naqvi hangs up his stethoscope and retires after spending 53 years working for the NHS.

At the age of 76, he has decided to spend more time playing golf, gardening, reading and perhaps writing.

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He said: “I have had a great time in Wigan. I have been very happy here.

“Wigan took me into its heart.”

However, Dr Naqvi will still retain a link to WWL, having been appointed as emeritus consultant cardiologist by chief executive Silas Nicholls and medical director Dr Sanjay Arya.

The annual Nayyar Naqvi Lecture will continue in the fittingly-named Nayyar Naqvi Lecture Theatre, and the Nayyar Naqvi Award for the best audit will remain for the foreseeable future.

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He is also a governor at Winstanley College, a role he has held for the past six

years.

As Dr Naqvi steps down from the helm of his department, it is safe to say that he has made a huge difference for heart patients in our borough.

His lifetime of dedication to cardiology has created a lasting legacy that will continue for years to come.

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Dr Naqvi said: “The cardiology department is the jewel in the crown of the trust. I am very proud of that.”

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