Doctor Retires After Career Saving Thousands Of Sick Babies

A doctor whose work has helped save thousands of babies across Bradford and the Yorkshire region is retiring after almost 30 years’ service to the NHS.

Consultant Neonatologist, Dr Sunita Seal, retires on 31 March after providing life-saving treatment to the 550 newborns seen each year at the Bradford Royal Infirmary’s (BRI) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The unit, which is part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, provides all levels of medical care and intensive care and receives babies from the city and across the Yorkshire region as it houses an intensive and high dependency care unit.

Sunita turns 60 in June and her husband, Arnab, a Consultant in Neurodevelopmental Paediatrics, in Leeds, retires on the same day.

Dr Seal said:

Arnab and I met while training at the Calcutta Medical College and came to England to work after initial training in India, so it’s quite fitting that we are both retiring at the same time.

We originally came to this country in 1992 to continue our training and achieve membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics. I worked in Exeter, Oxford and Great Ormond Street, before coming up to St. James’ Hospital in Leeds for my first registrar job.

Life was going well and I was enjoying medicine when we went away for a weekend with five friends from medical school and came up with the idea to open a hospital, on the outskirts of Calcutta, for people who couldn’t afford good healthcare.

Plans very soon became a reality and we left Leeds and returned to India to oversee the hospital build which we managed between us – it was the first of its kind in India. We took loans, using personal guarantees, and built the hospital from scratch after we’d purchased the land. The multi-speciality, Westbank Hospital opened in 1998, fulfilling our hopes and aspirations.

The hospital achieved a few firsts, including the first newborn transport service for the region, a level two neonatal intensive care unit, consultant-delivered care and the launch of the first biomedical training course in India.

The pair returned to Leeds in 2001 so Dr Seal could finish her registrar’s training. She started work as a locum doctor in neonates at St. James’ until a training number came up which meant she could complete her training and work at other regional NICUs.

Bradford was my last rotation and that’s how I ended up at the Trust, she commented. I was told to try it out as they’d have a job at the end. I did and I have loved working here ever since.

Dr Seal was appointed a substantive consultant in 2003.

Sunita Seal portrait

I’ve stayed this long because it is such a lovely place to work, she added. The work is brilliant – because there is so much pathology, so it is food for the soul.

The variety of work you don’t get anywhere else and that’s why Bradford is so popular with trainees as they see cases they don’t see anywhere and which are especially unique in neonates and paediatrics.

My colleagues and families are the best – the team here is absolutely amazing and that’s why once you come to Bradford, you are here forever.

Memorable highlights include her years as clinical lead from 2009-2020, the redevelopment of the unit into modern, fit-for-purpose facilities for families and colleagues in 2015, and achieving Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) accreditation from UNICEF in 2018 – the first unit in the UK to do so.

I’m delighted to say that we have just been reaccredited with ‘flying colours’ which is an incredible achievement and so I leave on a high, she continued.

Thank you to all my colleagues, the babies and their families who have made my time here very special.

The unit is in a great place and we produce the very best results for our babies.

In her retirement, Dr Seal plans to spend more time with the couple’s only daughter, Trina, who lives in London.

She plans to retain her medical registration for up to five years as she has various teaching and training roles with the Newborns Vietnam charity with fellow BRI retiree, Dr Chris Day. The first is a visit to Vietnam in September to train a cohort of NNU doctors.

Dr Seal also has plans for other voluntary work in the UK and India, alongside her involvement with the Ockenden Review into maternity services. Having previously worked on the Shrewsbury review, she has started working on the Nottingham review.

Chief Medical Officer at Bradford Teaching Hospitals, Dr Ray Smith, said:

Sunita has been an incredible asset to Bradford Teaching Hospitals, and to the babies and families she has cared for.

Her leadership and support has enabled the NICU to thrive and develop into the fantastic unit we have today.

Sunita will be greatly missed by all, and she leaves with our thanks and very best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement.