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Apology just the beginning for heart surgery unit mum

Michelle Elliott from Doncaster is one of the mothers to receive an apology from the Leeds Teaching Hopsitals NHS Trust in the report about mortality rates.

She believes her 13-year-old daughter Jessica waited so long for a heart transplant, after doctors said she wasn't sick enough, that she ended up having a stroke.

Jessica was finally referred to Newcastle where she had the operation - but the stroke has left her debilitated for life. Michelle, who has fought for all the families through her group Fragile Hearts says the apology should only be the beginning.


Report outlines 'lack of compassion' at Leeds hospital

The second part of a report that ruled Leeds General Infirmary's children's heart unit is safe, outlined the experiences of 16 families who complained about care their children received at the unit, prompting six to have their child's treatment transferred to another centre.

  • One mother said she felt pressurised into having an abortion, which was against her Muslim beliefs
  • A bereaved parent told the investigators: "We were given no support by the staff after Annie died. We were given a leaflet. Nobody asked how we were getting home in the early hours of the morning."
  • Another described how a book had gone missing in which their son had been writing about his experiences before his death. "It was like losing another part of him," the parent said. "They [staff] didn't seem bothered ... We had been going to Leeds for 10 years and no-one has rung to see how we are."

NHS Trust 'sincerely apologises' to families

Responding to an NHS report that ruled Leeds General Infirmary's children's heart unit safe but outlined the experiences of families who complained of poor care, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has apologised to those families.

We are pleased for our patients, families and staff that the Mortality Case Review has confirmed the medical and surgical care provided by the children's heart surgery unit in Leeds is safe.

We are very sorry however, that the 16 families who shared their stories with the Family Experience Review felt we did not provide the care they had a right to expect.

We sincerely apologise to those families and will of course, ensure we learn from what they had to say and improve our services as a result of this.

– Julian Hartley, Chief Executive and Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Care at children's heart surgery centre ruled 'safe'

A children's heart surgery unit in Leeds that was temporarily closed last year due to fears over mortality rates is safe, according to a comprehensive NHS report of its services out today.

Thee Jubilee Wing of Leeds General Infirmary as the children's heart surgery centre has been ruled as safe Credit: PA

However, the review of Leeds General Infirmary's children's heart surgery centre outlined the experiences of 16 families who complained of poor care at the unit, prompting apologies from both NHS England and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital.

Two 'satisfactory' hospitals identified in top risk band

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool has been identified as potentially high risk and sits in band 1, despite CQC inspectors working under a previous inspection regime saying the trust was meeting essential NHS standards earlier this year.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool has been identified as potentially high risk. Credit: Phil Noble/PA

Among five risks identified in the new collection of data, three were regarded as "elevated risks" and related to whistleblowing, the quality of data submitted by the trust and staff concerns over managers.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Leeds General Infirmary, also passed essential standards last year and is listed in band 1. Concerns there include whistleblowing, cases of the bug Clostridium difficile and serious concerns over education.


Ex-heart tsar to play no further part in Leeds heart debate

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sir Roger Boyle would play no further part in a review of where children's heart surgery should in future be carried out.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire

The government's former heart tsar sparked controversy last week when he told the BBC he would not send his daughter for treatment at Leeds General Infirmary's child heart surgery unit.

Mr Hunt said that while Sir Roger was still one of the leading heart surgeons his role in the Safe and Sustainable process aimed at centralising children's heart surgery into specialist centres would end.

He said: "He did the right thing in informing Sir Bruce (Keogh, NHS England Medical Director) about his concerns over Leeds mortality data.

"However it is the view of Sir Bruce, with which I fully concur, his comments to the media on April 11 could be seen as pre-judging any future conclusions made by that review and so it is right he plays no further role in its deliberations."

NHS director: No 'safety problem' at heart centres

There are no indications of a "safety problem" at children's heart surgery centres, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said today, following the temporary suspension of operations in Leeds and the publication of mortality rates at the centres. Sir Keogh said:

These findings do not indicate a 'safety' problem in any centre.

However, centres with three-year outcomes approaching the alert threshold may deserve additional scrutiny and monitoring of current performance.

By definition, around half of all units will have more deaths than 'expected'. It is therefore inappropriate to label centres as 'blameworthy' for these deaths, as the analysis does not show a significantly increased mortality rate.

Child heart operations death rates released

Mortality rates for all children's heart surgery centres in England have been released following the temporary suspension of operations in Leeds.

Data released by NHS England shows that none of the country's 10 centres breached thresholds for child heart surgery deaths, but Leeds General Infirmary came "very close" to the "alert" threshold.

Two other centres, Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, and Evelina Children's Hospital, part of Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust also came close to the limit, according to the figures, covering the years 2009 to 2012.

Read: Ex-heart tsar's Leeds safety fear

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NHS England: 'immediate safety concerns' at Leeds heart op unit addressed

NHS England has released a statement saying 'immediate safety concerns' at the Leeds Children's Heart Surgery Unit have been addressed.

Following completion of the first stage of the review by an independent clinical team, into paediatric heart surgery in Leeds, NHS England has been given assurances, that the immediate safety concerns raised two weeks ago have been addressed and the unit recommenced surgery on a phased basis earlier this week.


It is the duty of NHS England first and foremost to protect patients, hence we paused surgery at the unit to allow a review of the data and other concerns raised to take place. I and NHS England cannot allow undue risks when it comes to the safety of children.

NHS England originally raised concerns about Leeds General Infirmary because of preliminary data suggesting high mortality, concerns about staffing levels, whistleblowing information from clinicians, and complaints from patients.

A second stage of the review is underway in which we now need to explore some of the wider issues around how the unit operates as a whole. I hope we will soon be able to give the unit a full clean bill of health beyond this immediate reassurance of safety.

Throughout this process our sole concern has been the safety of patients this is why we paused surgery and after assurances why we allowed surgery to re-start.”

– Mike Bewick, Deputy Medical Director of NHS England
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