Device that cured Blunkett's bile

DAVID Blunkett revealed yesterday that he was a "guinea pig" for pioneering medical equipment designed and made by Surgical Innovations.

The Labour MP was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux while serving as Home Secretary and was introduced to a surgeon who was using the new port device for non-invasive surgery.

Mr Blunkett recounted his surgical experience at a party held by the Leeds-based manufacturing company to celebrate the winning of a Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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"I'm here as a recipient of the wonders of the instrumentation that has been created by this company," he told the audience of staff and stakeholders.

"There I was, like all guinea pigs, on the treadmill trying to do the job as Home Secretary and I discovered – what you discover in politics all the time – an enormous amount of bile.

"In my case, it led to Barratt's Oesophagus because the bile was real as well as political and I was in quite a bad way."

Speaking afterwards to the Yorkshire Post, he described his condition. "All the mechanism between your gullet and your stomach has disintegrated and therefore, what goes down comes back up. That then damages your oesophagus and gullet and leads to cancer. They caught it at a point which has stabilised it and avoided – thank God – that happening."

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The surgeon, Professor Mike McMahon, performed the procedure at Leeds General Infirmary in December 2002, a day after the instrumentation arrived at the hospital.

Asked what brought the condition on, Mr Blunkett said: "They are not entirely sure. Stress undoubtedly exacerbates it, and there was plenty of stress post September 11, 2001. I was Home Secretary, so it wasn't surprising.

"But it was a fantastic operation and eight years on it is commonplace. Then it was literally cutting edge."

Mr Blunkett told the audience the Queen's Award was "a moment of pride for the company and for all those who have been associated with it".

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He added: "It's also a moment of pride for Yorkshire and the way in which we will need to develop and build on innovation and enterprise across the region for the sake of jobs, our economy and the rebirth

of a belief and self-belief in manufacturing."

The Aim-listed company won the award for YelloPort+Plus, a system which acts as a channel into the body, allowing surgeons to carry out delicate keyhole procedures.

An early version of the product allowed the company to go to the City and raise 4m from institutional shareholders. It subsequently moved into larger premises and brought its manufacturing operations back from overseas.

Doug Liversidge, chairman and the man who introduced Mr Blunkett to Prof McMahon, said: "Bringing manufacturing home has paid off and I would recommend to other companies which buy products offshore that they should look at bringing manufacturing home."