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  1. ITV Report

Child heart surgery units to be cut after standards review

  • ITV News report by Damon Green

NHS Trusts have hit out over a controversial move to cut the number of hospitals allowed to perform children's heart surgery.

Why are they closing?

The decision by NHS England comes after a review into standards across the country after a probe into cardiac services at Bristol Royal Hospital found poor care following the death of 11 children.

This follows a number of reviews since the public inquiry at Bristol Royal Infirmary in 2001 following the death of 35 children and babies between 1990 and 1995.

Under the plans:

13
level 1 centres that perform surgery will be cut to 10
9
level 2 specialist cardiac centres will be reduced to four.

What has been the reaction from affected trusts?

Some NHS trusts said they would fight the decision, with Leicester saying it would not sit by while officials at NHS England "destroy our fabulous service".

The Trust said its results were among some of the best in the country and that closing it would threaten other key children's services in the region including intensive care.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in London, which won a legal challenge over plans to close its unit in 2012, described the decision as "extraordinary" and "ill-conceived".

It also criticised NHS England's handling of the announcement, saying it asked the trust to submit extra detail but then took no notice of it.

The changes are due to be brought in from April next year.

Services are set to close at:

  • Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
  • Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust
  • Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

The plans cover units providing both adult and children's congenital heart surgery and those providing specialist care.

Around 80% of the heart services at the units relates to children.

All units providing adult and children's congenital heart surgery in England were assessed against new standards published last year.

They were all found to be providing safe care - with death rates within acceptable limits - but NHS England said some saw too few cases to maintain standards.

Sir Ian Kennedy says the decision delivers quality and consistency. Credit: PA

Officials at NHS England believe that while units in England are safe, not all are providing excellent care.

NHS England says that by centralising services, patient outcomes will continue to improve and children born with congenital heart defects will live longer.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, who was chairman of the public inquiry at Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: "These are vital services and we have waited 15 years to arrive at a solution which delivers quality and consistency for current and future generations.

"It is good news for patients that there is finally a clear consensus on the standards that need to be met, and that we are now seeing decisive action to make those standards a reality for every patient in every part of the country."

Patients, families and staff need to be assured of sustainable, high quality services now, and into the future.

There has been a great deal of uncertainty over the future of congenital heart disease services over the past 15 years.

We owe it to patients, families and staff to end that uncertainty, and to provide clear direction for the safety and quality of this specialist area of medicine going forward.

A great deal of work has gone into achieving consensus across the board on the standards that providers should meet.

We are determined to take all actions necessary to ensure that those standards are met, so that patients get the high quality and safe services that they expect and deserve.

– Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England