With the long-awaited final decision of the Safe and Sustainable Review into children’s heart services due on Wednesday, The Children’s Heart Federation welcomes the end to the long period of uncertainty for families.
CHF has been campaigning for improvements to UK heart care services for many years, particularly since the Bristol Baby Tragedy of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when it was clear that urgent change was needed to improve services.
The Safe and Sustainable Review of children’s congenital heart services in England began in 2008 with the development of care quality standards agreed with leading experts, their associations and the public. An expert independent panel carried out an assessment of the quality of existing centres and their ability to meet the new standards in the future. The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) conducted a national consultation on proposed options for reconfiguring services. More information about Safe and Sustainable is available at http://www.specialisedservices.nhs.uk/safe_sustainable/childrens-congenital-cardiac-services
CHF has played an active role in the development of the standards for the children’s heart surgical service and wider heart care network of the future. CHF worked with the NHS to create opportunities for parents’ voices to be heard and their views understood and taken on board.
CHF continues to support the Safe and Sustainable Review and the recommended new set of national quality standards to ensure the highest quality of care for all families. These included the requirement for each surgical unit to have 4 surgeons conducting between 400 and 500 operations per year, thereby ensuring the highest quality care for children needing heart surgery, with around the clock care provided and suitable resources available to enable top-quality research to be conducted.
While CHF supports the implementation of the Safe and Sustainable standards, it did not align itself with any particular unit nor support any particular configuration option. As a national charity working on behalf of all children with CHD, we felt it was not appropriate to back any campaign in favour of a particular unit.
CHF recognises and has always acknowledged the strong loyalty felt by many parents to the unit where their child has been treated and understand why they would support the option that they feel gives that unit the best chance of continuing to offer surgery. CHF respects the views of those parents and their right to express them. At the same time, CHF believes that it is vital that the decision regarding the reconfiguration should be based on the creation of a national service with clear managed networks, rather than the continuation of the present regionally-based surgical services with ad hoc referral pathways.
After the decision is made on Wednesday we urge everyone concerned with the care of children with congenital and acquired heart disease to pull together to ensure the standards are implemented as soon as possible. CHF understands and appreciates that some people will be disappointed on Wednesday whatever decision is reached and we are committed to working with all parents and the NHS to ensure that the changes are implemented quickly, safely and effectively to ensure that we can look to a future of excellent care for all our children.