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Trust acts on heart surgery closure

An NHS trust has launched legal action over the potential closure of children's heart surgery on its site.

The Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust in London has applied for judicial review after a committee said it should no longer be able to carry out paediatric cardiac surgery.

The trust was frozen out of last month's plans for the reconfiguration of children's heart surgery across England.

The Joint Committee of PCTs (JCPCT) agreed four options for public consultation but said the Royal Brompton should be excluded and London should be served by two - not three - surgical centres. Instead, the plans say the Royal Brompton Hospital would become a children's cardiology centre.

A spokeswoman for the trust said it had issued legal proceedings against the JCPCT in respect of the plans, which it believes are "fundamentally flawed". The loss of several services as a result of the changes "would potentially call into question the viability of the trust", she said.

The spokeswoman said two separate approaches have been made to the JCPCT in order to avoid legal action, but the first had been rejected and it had failed to respond to the second.

She added: "Although this is a decision we have taken with the greatest reluctance and regret, we feel we have no alternative but to act in the interests of our patients. We have always supported the principle that all babies and children who undergo heart surgery deserve the best possible care, and that this is likely to be in larger centres.

"But what we cannot accept is that a large, successful centre like Royal Brompton is not even included as an option in the consultation process, despite it being of the required size and despite its impressive record."

Teresa Moss, director of the National Specialised Commissioning Team, said: "Safe and Sustainable is about improving outcomes for children with congenital heart disease and we do not see a reason to delay such an important consultation. We are also disappointed that the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust would seek to put a halt to the consultation."

She said there was "an obvious rationale behind the proposal for two London centres and we stand ready to defend the robust way in which the recommendations for public consultation have been reached".

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