Teen 'traumatised' after Bristol Children's Hospital cancels open heart surgery three times

The teenager is on the heart surgery waiting list at Bristol Royal Children's Hospital

A teenager waiting for heart surgery in Bristol has been left "traumatised" by repeated cancellations, forcing them to seek counselling.

The family, who wish to remain anonymous, have had three dates cancelled for the child's surgery at Bristol Royal Children's Hospital since September.

On one occasion, the parents said their child was about to go to the theatre when they were told the operation would not be going ahead.

Their most recent cancellation was at the beginning of December, and the parents say they have had no communication from the hospital since.

They said: "The communication is just absolutely awful. They literally just ring and say, 'We've got a date for you. Are you available on such and such a date?'"

In response to complaints from two other parents of children on the heart surgery waiting list, Professor Stuart Walker, chief medical officer for University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust, said last week: "Rescheduling planned surgery is always taken as a last resort".

The parents are worried about the mental toll the cancellations are having on their child, who is due to take exams at school later this year. They are worried about the long-term psychological and physical effects the delay in treatment may have.

They added: "It's just so stressful on my child. I'm having to pay for counselling at the moment because they've just not been coping well with it at all.

"My child understands what's going on, and they understand what the operation entails as open heart surgery, that they will stop their heart. It's a huge thing for a teenager.

"We were told if the heart gets too enlarged, that's not something you can turn back. And once you've got an enlarged heart, you've got a very weak heart.

"Obviously it weighs on my mind. And the longer they leave it, the bigger it's going to get."

When discussing how the hospital could help families, the parent said: "I'd like them to communicate better to let us know what's going on. I'd like them just to be honest and say what the problem is. Is it that there are no beds? Or is it that there's no staff?

"Even if they could give just a rough idea: 'This is what we're doing, this is what we're trying to do to get rid of the backlog, we're trying to get more staff, we're sorting out the intensive care beds, this is what we're aiming for'.

"But you're just left in complete limbo, having no idea if it's even going to be this year."

Professor Stuart Walker, Chief Medical Officer for University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust, said: “Patient safety is our first priority. Like all children's hospitals up and down the country, we are exceptionally busy at the moment.

"We are currently caring for a high number of children with acute respiratory infections arriving as emergencies.

"Sadly, many of them have needed intensive care support, which can result in us having to reschedule planned surgery. Every child on our waiting list is regularly reviewed by our senior consultant doctors to ensure they are correctly prioritised for treatment.

"Rescheduling planned surgery is always taken as a last resort. We understand how distressing this is for our patients and parents and make every effort to avoid it happening.

"We would like to apologise to any of our patients and parents who have experienced this and thank them for their patience.