Children's heart surgery to continue at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital

The Freeman Hospital Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The number of hospitals in England allowed to perform children's heart surgery is to be cut in a controversial move.

Newcastle's Freeman hospital however IS to continue performing children's heart surgery.

NHS England has published what it hopes will be the final decision on thematter after previous reviews led to some NHS trusts launching legal action.

The plans cover units performing both adult and children's congenital heartsurgery (CHD), and those providing cardiac specialist care for CHD.

Around 80% of the CHD work undertaken at these units relates to children.

Under the plans, 13 level 1 centres that perform surgery will be cut to 10, and nine level 2 specialist cardiac centres will be cut to four.

Level 1 units that are set to go are those at:

  • Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

  • Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in London.

Those level 2 units that will lose services - none of which perform surgery -are:

  • 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.

All units providing adult and children's congenital heart surgery in Englandwere assessed against new standards to work out if they were providing good care.

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

Some evidence suggests surgeons should see 125 patients per surgeon per year to ensure surgeons remain competent and highly skilled.

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

They hope that by centralising services, outcomes for patients will continue to improve, with more patients surviving and those children born with congenital heart defects living longer into adulthood.

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

Congenital heart disease services have been the subject of a number of reviews since the public inquiry at Bristol Royal Infirmary in 2001.

In 2015, NHS England published new standards that units must meet for theorganisation to continue commissioning their services.