A LEADING Southampton doctor has urged heart patients to retain confidence in pacemakers despite a study claiming they claim the lives of thousands of people every year.

New research suggests mechanical flaws are the cause behind 30 per cent of sudden deaths in people who have pacemakers.

Around 14,000 patients with pacemakers die each year in the UK, which means around a third would be due to defects in the devices if the research by the University of San Francisco is accurate.

But Dr Andrew Flett, consultant cardiologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, insisted the devices save thousands of lives.

He told the Daily Echo: "The study raises very important questions which need further investigation and will drive even more rigor in the industry. But this small investigation does not detract from the utility of these devices.

Dr Flett said the public should not lose faith in them.

He said: “The heart beats once per second so that represents over 31 million beats a year so lead failure is inevitable unfortunately.

“The speed with which the technology evolves also requires that doctors and technologists need to be constantly kept up to date - another potential for things to go wrong.

“The technology cannot be perfect - death and human physiology are complicated and the algorithms to detect and prevent death can only do so much.”

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which is a watchdog for medical devices, said there were 2,400 reports of ‘adverse incidents’, including deaths, from pacemakers and internal defibrillators between 2010 and 2014 but that they were responsible for saving 50,000 lives each year.