Heart services process re-evaluated
NHS officials have been ordered to re-evaluate the streamlining of children's heart surgery services after the decision to close three units was deemed to be flawed.
Plans to shut the units in Leeds, Leicester and west London were put on hold by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after an independent review suggested that the consultation process "left too many questions unanswered".
The Safe and Sustainable Review's proposals to shut paediatric cardiac surgery units in Leeds General Infirmary (LGI), Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in west London "cannot go ahead in their current form", Mr Hunt said, adding that he asked NHS England to continue with the process of looking into the reorganisation of children's heart surgery, saying that the streamlining of services must continue.
The £6 million review into streamlining paediatric cardiac surgery in England has been heavily criticised and campaigners have fought ferociously against the closure of the units. Two separate legal challenges were launched against its process, including the first-ever case of an NHS organisation taking legal action against another.
The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), the body tasked with reviewing the Safe and Sustainable Review's final decision, concluded that "the decision was based on flawed analysis of incomplete proposals and their health impact, leaving too many questions about sustainability unanswered and to be dealt with as implementation risks".
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hunt said: "This is clearly a serious criticism of the Safe and Sustainable process. I therefore accept (IRP's) recommendation that the proposals cannot go ahead in their current form and I'm suspending the review today. NHS England will also seek to withdraw its appeal against the judicial review successfully achieved by Save Our Surgery in Leeds.
"I know that many families have found the Safe and Sustainable Review to be a traumatic experience. People are rightly proud of the hospitals and the staff that have saved, or tried their best to save, the lives of their children. However, there is overwhelming consensus that we cannot stick with the model of care we have now. To do so would be a betrayal of the families who lost loved ones in Bristol who want nothing more than the NHS to learn the lessons from their personal tragedies.
"So it is right we continue with this process. But it is also essential that it is performed correctly so that any decisions, as difficult as they may ultimately be, carry the confidence of the public."
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "I think we have to be frank with people that we can't expect really technical surgery, like children's heart operations, to be carried out at every hospital in the country.
"As the parent of a desperately ill child, wanting to get the best care for that child, you need to know that you're getting something that is world-best. For really technical operations you can't get that everywhere. Clearly the conclusion is that this process, which started in 2008, hasn't been carried out properly so we need to make a restart."