Two large hospitals, the Royal Brompton in London and Glenfield hospital in Leicester, have defied plans from NHS England, prompting a strong response from critics.
The issue stems from an ongoing 15-year-old squabble over the deaths of babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.
Since the 2001 government Kennedy review into the tragedy indicated that someunits should be closed due to a lack of skill, there has been considerable debate over which should ultimately be annulled.
And the latest review conducted by NHS England states that the units at Royal Brompton and Glenfield must shut down.
With both hospitals strongly disagreeing with the decision of government, the two organisations have strongly fought this diktat.
“We are confident that our clinical outcomes are now among the best in the country, so we strongly disagree with NHS England’s decision and will not sit by whilst they destroy our fabulous service,” John Adler, chief executive at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust, asserted.
By the same token, the Royal Brompton Hospital equally believes that its surgeons are skilled enough for this unit to remain in operation.
“We find NHS England’s stated intention extraordinary. We are, however, reassured to see that the idea of removing congenital heart disease services from Royal Brompton is ‘subject to consultation with relevant trusts and, if appropriate, the wider public’. We fail to see how any logical review of the facts will come to the same conclusion as this panel,” Robert Craig, chief operating officer at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS foundation trust, commented.
Craig also suggested that the Royal Brompton is one of the largest and most successful centres in the country, and that the approach from government was little short of absurd.
The new plan also involves cardiology services being shifted from several institutions.
Services at five hospitals, Blackpool, South Manchester, Papworth, Nottingham, and at Imperial in London, will be relocated.
NHS England commented that the quality of surgery at the hospitals in question had been assessed as being insufficient.
And Huon Gray, NHS England national clinical director, considers this to be the final opportunity for the NHS to ensure that the health service delivers outstanding art services to children.
Central Manchester, which has just one surgeon for congenital heart defects, “does not meet the standards and is assessed as not being able to within the foreseeable future”, said NHS England.
The aforementioned Gray indicated that the loss of consultancy staff had prompted the radical decision.
“I know for a fact that we have lost key consultant staff moving abroad over the last few years because they weren’t convinced we were able to grasp the nettle, because it is a really difficult issue. If we don’t grasp this opportunity, I think we will have to accept that adequate is good enough.”
The Royal College of Surgeons has indicated that it strongly supports the proposals.