Press Association - Hospitals to stop child heart ops

(UKPA) – 05/07/2012

Hospitals in Leicester, Leeds and the Royal Brompton in London are to stop performing heart surgery on children, it has been announced.

In a move to streamline paediatric heart services, three of the 10 specialist units in England will stop performing such procedures on children. The move comes after an NHS review which concluded that expertise was spread too thinly in the 10 sites and should be concentrated in fewer hospitals.

The Royal Brompton in Chelsea, west London, Leeds General Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital in Leicester will not stop providing surgery immediately as plans to implement the new streamlined service are still being developed.

It is understood that implementation of the streamlined services is expected to take place throughout 2013. Once they stop providing surgery the units will still see patients for diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment.

One of the hospitals angered by the decision is the Royal Brompton which was at the centre of a bitter legal dispute surrounding the consultation process.

The hospital, which is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and among the largest centres in Europe, argued that the consultation process was unlawful. But the Trust lost the legal row in April after it fought all the way to the Court of Appeal.

Bob Bell, chief executive of the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is very difficult to know what to say at times like these. But it is even more difficult to try and understand how this committee could have come to such a decision.”

The institutions which will now house the specialist surgery centres are: Evelina Hospital, which is part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust, Great Ormond Street, both in London, Southampton General Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

The Children’s Heart Federation welcomed the decision. Chief executive Anne Keatley-Clarke said: “The delays to planned improvements in children’s heart services caused a great deal of uncertainty for parents and professionals, so we are pleased for them that this has come to an end.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said: “This announcement will allow the NHS to get on with making long-overdue and necessary changes. We have had eleven years of debate on this issue. Now is the time to act and get children’s care to highest standard possible.”

Source:  Press Association