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Royal Brompton child heart unit row goes to High Court

Category: England

Published: 27th Sep 2011 08:33:44

The Royal Brompton Hospital is starting a legal challenge over what it says was "deeply flawed" consultation which it claims has led to its children's heart surgery unit facing closure.

It says the shutting down of the unit would put the viability of the whole hospital at risk.

The hospital in Chelsea, west London, has the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK.

A judicial review over the consultation begins later at the High Court.

Its challenge, which is expected to be heard over three days, is against the consultation process launched by the Joint Committee of the Primary Care Trusts of England as part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services (PCCS) around the country.

It is believed this is the first legal challenge of its kind to be brought by one NHS body against another.

Our decision to take legal action has been taken with deep regret”

Bob Bell, the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust's chief executive, said: "Our decision to take legal action has been taken with deep regret.

"But the gravity of the consequences for patients of this deeply flawed consultation process left us no other option."

The decision to grant a judicial review was made following a hearing in July.

At that hearing, Alan Maclean QC, for the trust, said the joint committee was proposing under the "Safe and Sustainable" consultation on the future of children's heart surgery in England to reduce the number of centres in London from three to two.

He said it was now clear that the Royal Brompton centre was going to be "ditched" following an "unfair and unlawful" consultation exercise "shot through with legal error".

But Neil Garnham QC, for the joint committee said there had not yet been a final decision that the number of PCCS centres in London would be reduced from three to two.

The three-centre solution "has plainly not been excluded and the joint committee is proceeding with an open mind", said Mr Garnham.

Views in favour of retaining the Royal Brompton's services would be properly considered.

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