19/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 05:57

Child heart surgery units to learn fate

Category: England

Published: 4th Jul 2012 00:31:49

The hospitals that perform child heart surgery are due to learn which will have to stop performing operations.

There are currently 10 units in England, but an official consultation has proposed up to four should cease doing surgery.

The NHS review was carried out amid fears expertise was spread too thinly.

It has already concluded surgery should be concentrated on fewer sites and will announce on Thursday which will be allowed to continue.

Centres in Leicester, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton and London are under threat.

Those that are told to stop surgery will still stay open as they will be allowed to continue seeing patients for diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment.

In total, there are four options on the table - each of which involves the ending of surgery at three or four sites.

About 3,600 operations are carried out each year on children born with a range of heart defects.

Most survive to adulthood, but there is widespread agreement among professional bodies that to provide a uniformly high quality and safe service operations must be concentrated in fewer, larger centres to enable surgeons to improve skills and share expertise.

Surgery at one unit - Oxford's John Radcliffe - was stopped as recently as 2010 after a spate of deaths.

But concerns about child heart surgery go back much further with questions being raised ever since the Bristol scandal in the 1990s when children having heart surgery died needlessly.

The four proposals were put forward last February, although the process was held up by a judicial review by one of the hospitals - London's Royal Brompton - which is under threat.

Groups including the Royal College of Surgeons, Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Children's Heart Federation, which represents parents, have all agreed there is a need for stopping surgery at some sites.

Nonetheless, local groups of opposition involving parents and MPs have voiced criticisms.

The announcement of the conclusions of the review, coordinated by the National Specialised Commissioning Group, which is in charge of child heart units, is expected on Thursday afternoon.

All four options available would see hospitals in Birmingham, Liverpool's Alder Hey and Bristol continuing to do surgery along with two in London.

The review does not apply to Scotland, where all children's heart surgery is carried out in Glasgow.

Children from Northern Ireland have to travel to Dublin for surgery.

But it does affect families in Wales as they travel to England for surgery.

The four options are to keep surgery going at:

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BBC News, 2012. Child heart surgery units to learn fate [Online] (Updated 4th Jul 2012)
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