White paper puts heart children at risk in scramble to save costs, warns charity

Children’s Heart Federation, the leading national charity supporting children and young people with a heart defect, warns that patients with the rarest conditions could suffer in the move to GP commissioning announced by today’s health White Paper.
In all their years of general practice, family doctors may only see cases of a rare condition, including forms of congenital heart disease, once or twice.

While Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, agrees with GPs who say,

“My job is to look after the patient in front of me,” Anne Keatley-Clarke, Children’s Heart Federation’s Chief Executive, sees serious limitations in this approach for patients with a rare condition.

Ms Keatley-Clarke declares,

“We know parents of heart children often bypass the GP because their level of understanding of the condition is inadequate. This group of patients will be seriously let down if money and good systems to purchase their care are not firmly in place. Out of sight must not be out of mind.”

She continues,

“We also hear of GPs refusing to treat heart children, where parents understand this is on cost grounds. Let’s remember that many GPs are businessmen running as independent contractors and may well be looking at how they can maximise profits. We must not sacrifice heart children’s care in a scramble to save management costs.”

Ends

Notes for editors:

  1. Approximately 5000 babies in the UK are born with a heart condition each year, with a further 1000 developing a serious heart problem after birth.
  2. The Children`s Heart Federation (CHF) is an umbrella body with 22 member organisations that support children and young people with heart defects from birth or acquired in childhood and their families in the UK and Ireland. CHF provides information and support through its freephone helpline 0808 808 5000, open Monday to Friday and its websitehttp://www.chfed.org.uk/
  3. The NHS is currently reviewing services related to children’s heart surgery across England. This reconfiguration programme, known as Safe and Sustainable Children’s Heart Surgery in England,  is expected to lead to fewer, larger centres that provide surgery, after the publication of recommendations in autumn this year (see Children’s Heart Surgery: The Need for Change in the list of General Cardiac Documents at:http://www.specialisedservices.nhs.uk/index.php/safe-and-sustainable-programmes/#cardiac_surgery_services_programme.