There has been much controversy lately over the provision of cardiac services to children in England, following the Safe and Sustainable review of Children’s Congenital Heart Services. This review aimed to identify how children who need surgery could be provided with excellent care.
After a lengthy consultation and review process, the decision was made to reduce the number of cardiac units around the country to ensure that children being operated on were treated by those with sufficient experience and expertise in this specialist area. The move signalled the end of child cardiac surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI), Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and London’s Royal Brompton.
Legal action was subsequently brought by LGI to challenge the decision making process leading to the closure of its cardiac unit. This legal challenge was successful when the judge in the High Court ruled that the decision was unfair and legally flawed.
Just 24 hours later, on 28 March 2013, a decision was taken to temporarily suspend children’s heart surgery at LGI amid claims that the mortality rates there were twice the national average. Due to concerns about the accuracy of this data, surgery was ultimately allowed to resume on 10 April 2013.
Sir Roger Boyle, director of the National Institute of Cadiovascular Outcomes Research, maintained that care was still 'on the edge of acceptability' and commented that he would not want his daughter treated at the hospital. He has since resigned.
A health minister has come forward to state that the Government had no part to play in the decision to suspend heart surgery at Leeds and that this was NHS led, but many still question whether politics were involved.
We await the next chapter of this story with interest and hope that, above all, the NHS and Government focus remains on the provision of the best possible cardiac services for children, whatever form they may take, and wherever these services are provided.