We are disappointed that this decision will result in further delays to the establishment of the new children’s heart care network, adding to the considerable anxiety that some families of children with a heart problem have been living under for many months now.
Uncertainty about the final configuration of surgical and cardiology centres is now increasing the variation in quality of services across the network, as it prevents necessary investment and destabilises staff teams – prompting some staff to move out of posts at centres whose future is uncertain. Lack of staffing leads to increasing waiting times for vital operations – which is potentially damaging to the frail health of some of the country’s most vulnerable children.
The case for change for the new heart -care network has been agreed in principle for some years – with the support not only of the member organisations of the Children’s Heart Federation but also the professional bodies of the specialities involved paediatric cardiac care.
We understand the need for parents and staff at Leeds to be reassured that any changes to their service are based on the best available evidence.
At the same time, we would urge everyone involved to move urgently to bring clarity about the shape of the new children’s heart care network, so that larger specialist surgical teams can come together at a smaller number of surgical centres, to ensure that both planned and emergency operations are delivered by well trained and well-rested surgeons at any time of day or night on any day of the year.