Three out of 10 specialist units will stop performing heart surgery on children following an NHS review which decided resources were spread too thinly.
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.
Once they stop providing surgery, probably after 2013, the units will still see patients for diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment.
The consultation process by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) of England was part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services.
The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children’s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.
The review recommended that surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres in order to ensure quality of care.
One of the hospitals angered by the decision is Royal Brompton, which is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and among the largest in Europe.
Fearing for the future of the unit, it argued through the courts that the consultation process was unlawful but lost the legal battle in April in the Court of Appeal.
Bob Bell, chief executive of the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said the damaging effects on specialist respiratory care for children if it’s paediatric intensive care unit closed had been highlighted “time and time again”.
He said he would speak to the board, adding: “One thing is certain – I will not be asking them for the mandate to manage the destruction of a highly valued and respected children’s unit.”
Mike Collier, Chairman of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This result flies in the face of logical health care planning and plain common sense.”
He added: “We are surprised that the very clear wishes of over 600,000 people from this region appear to have been disregarded.”
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund said it would attempt appeal to the health minister against the decision.
Charity director Sharon Cheng said: “Clinical logic has not been taken into consideration. They have ignored co-location. They have ignored patient choice.”
But the Children’s Heart Federation’s 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.”
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director said: “These changes need to be made for the benefit of all children who have congenital heart disease.
“The review, which has been led by the NHS and is independent of ministers, has the support of the royal colleges as well as national charities.
“I hope that everyone involved can now work together to ensure the NHS delivers the very best services for children.”
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.
Source: Sky News