'Stalling the heart review will put children at risk,’ charity warns MPs

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF), the umbrella organisation for charities supporting children and young people with a heart condition, has contacted all MPs in advance of the  Adjournment Debate on the Review of congenital cardiac services for children in the Chamber on Thursday 23 June (Member in charge: Stuart Andrew) urging them to vote against any attempt to stop or stall the Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart services.

The charity believes that it is wrong that some politicians are now trying to block the process that will lead to vital improvements in the organisation of care in response to pressure from campaigns to save surgery at some specialist heart units.

“A lack of political will has sunk this improvement process in the past,” explains CHF Chief Executive, Anne Keatley-Clarke, “we must not allow that to happen this time. If these changes don’t go through, some children will die unnecessarily and others will leave hospital with avoidable complications from treatment. This is a moment where local politicians must have the strength to see through apparently tough decisions in order to serve children across the whole country.”

The recommendations from the Bristol Baby Tragedy were published 10 years ago and gained broad support from clinicians and parent groups, despite the inevitable logic that bringing together surgeons into larger teams would mean fewer centres could offer surgery.

There is sign-up from all the key professional bodies and national charities that consolidating surgery is not only more sustainable for workforce planning but safer as it would deliver:

 

  • A significant reduction in cancellations and waiting times for surgery because the team is large enough to run planned and emergency procedures at the same time;
  • Better outcomes from surgery because surgeons would have a chance to build up their skills through higher volume caseloads, more research into groundbreaking techniques and sub-specialisation within the team;
  • An end to high-risk rotas in which a surgeon in a small team covering for a colleague on leave can operate all day and be on call all night, several days running.

 

 

As the date for a decision on which units will continue to perform surgery draws closer, some units are at the centre of fiercely fought campaigns. In a bid to save surgery in their centre, some parents and clinicians are asking MPs to stall progress to a decision. Myths are circulating that units will close. In fact, even where surgery is consolidated elsewhere, units will continue to provide specialist medical treatment – and the modernisation plans create a blueprint for truly local heart care, enhancing services provided through district general hospitals.

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