Jeremy Hunt suspends closure of three Children’s Heart Surgery units

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suspended the plans to close three children’s heart surgery units for being “flawed”.

Three hospitals in Leicester, Leeds and London were due to stop performing heart surgery on children, according to NHS recommendation to reduce the number of children’s heart surgery units from ten to seven.

Mr. Hunt has said that plans to close the units in Leeds, Leicester and west London were to be put on hold after an independent review suggested that the consultation process was based on “flawed analysis”.

Heart repairing of children born with congenital defects is one of the most complex procedures in the NHS. Around 3,700 such procedures take place each year.

Currently ten hospitals perform the necessary delicate surgery, but last year the “Safe & Sustainable review” performed by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts ruled expertise was spread too thinly.

It has recommended concentrating the surgery in seven specialist centres of Great Ormond Street, London; Evelina Children’s Hospital, London; Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Alder Hey, Liverpool; The Royal Children’s Hospital, Bristol and Southampton General by 2014 in order to bring improvement to the safety measures.

Campaigners were concerned about the loss of local services and a High Court judge had put down the decision to stop surgery in Leeds explaining the consultation to be flawed and “ill judged”.

During the row, Mr. Hunt has called for the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), an advisory body, to assess the decision.

After IRP report made its conclusion Mr. Hunt then told the Commons: “The outcome of the Safe & Sustainable review was based on a flawed analysis of the impact of incomplete proposals, and leaves too many questions about sustainability and implementation.

“This is clearly a serious criticism of the Safe & Sustainable process. I therefore accept their recommendation that the proposals cannot go ahead in their current form and am suspending the review today.”

He has told the consultation was not made with confidence of the public with some feeling the decision was predetermined.

He has said the choice which hospitals provided surgery was one of the most flawed areas of the review, but added “we need to get on with this” as the original argument for improving care was unchanged.

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