Children’s heart surgery unit reform suspended

Aaron Prior, pictured middle left, with his family Paul Prior, Sam Prior and Jadon Prior.
Aaron Prior, pictured middle left, with his family Paul Prior, Sam Prior and Jadon Prior.
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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Plans to reform children’s heart surgery have been suspended as the decision was based on a “flawed analysis”.

As previously reported, the children’s congenital heart services at Southampton General Hospital – the closest for the Portsmouth area – had been saved from closure.

A review done by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts last July, concluded expertise was spread too thinly between 10 centres nationally, and should be reduced to six or seven.

One of the services earmarked for closure was at Leeds General Infirmary.

Campaigners from Leeds, who appealed to the High Court, said the original consultation process was flawed, and the judge ruled in their favour.

Last October Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IPR), an advisory body, to assess the decision.

This afternoon Mr Hunt told the Commons: ‘The IPR report also concludes that 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.’

NHS England – which was set up in April this year and commissions this service, today promised to lead a rethink of plans to improve children’s heart surgery.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director for NHS England, said: ‘We welcome the review and NHS England will now study its recommendations in full to learn from them.

‘We will institute a new process that recognises the very strong case for redesigning services to meet the demands of the future, while addressing the legitimate concerns in our local communities.’

Mum Sam Prior, of Elder Close, Locks Heath, whose son Aaron has had four open heart surgery operations, has been campaigning to keep the Southampton unit open.