Child heart surgery proposed closure of units in England

  • Posted

Posted 03/07/2012

Currently there are ten hospitals in England carrying out heart surgery on children but an NHS review has proposed reducing these to six or perhaps seven. In Ireland all heart surgery is carried out in Dublin and in Scotland surgery is carried out in Glasgow. Wales has to send all children to England for surgery.

The NHS review, which is broadly supported by the medical profession, only refers to surgery and not to other aspects of treatment for childhood heart problems which it is proposed will continue to be practised at the existing centres. The reason for the proposals is that it is believed that surgical expertise is currently too thinly spread and that the standard of surgery would be improved by concentrating expertise in fewer expanded centres. Two London hospitals together with either four or five regional centres would remain.

There is widespread support for the proposals by eminent professional bodies within the medical profession including the Royal College of Surgeons, the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery as well as the Children’s Heart Federation which represents parents.

Acknowledging this, and the work that went into the NHS review, Trefine Maynard a solicitor with the specialist clinical negligence team at Ashtons Legal, said: ” I must assume that the proposals are based on sound research and on a genuine belief that reducing the surgical centres will improve the care of children who require heart surgery. Nonetheless any move to reduce the number of centres must take into account needs of both the children themselves and their families and must put in place good support for them when surgery is needed. Having a child treated some distance away from home must always add stress to what will anyway be a hugely distressing time for both the patient and their family. The quality of the care given and the desire to ensure this is as high as it can be must of course be the most important criteria but the needs of the family as a whole must not be ignored. It would seem sensible to try to ensure that the final configuration provides as widespread a distribution as possible so that the distances travelled by patients and their families is minimised. I would also like to see that support for the families during periods of treatment is taken into account as part and parcel of the needs of the patient. They are likely to do better if they can benefit from support from their parents and family.”


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