Frustration at heart hospital decision delay

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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PARENTS and staff who are waiting to see if the region’s children’s heart unit will close are facing a delay after a legal challenge.

A three-month consultation over nationwide proposals which could see the closure of the children’s congenital heart services at Southampton General Hospital may have to be held again.

It comes after the Royal Brompton Hospital, in London, challenged the way the consultation was carried out by NHS officials.

The hospital argued on several fronts, including that the consultation did not take its research work into consideration properly – a point upheld by the High Court.

The NHS is planning to appeal, and if upheld then a decision will come in the new year.

But if the appeal is rejected, or the NHS choose not to appeal, then a new consultation may have to be held.

The Joint Committee Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) is looking to reduce 11 centres nationally to just six or seven.

Sam Prior, of Elder Close, Locks Heath, whose son Aaron has had four open heart surgery operations at Southampton, said: ‘I’m very frustrated and disappointed.

‘Everyone from parents, clinicians, hospital officials and other agencies have all put so much time and energy into making a good case for our unit to be a surgical centre. We are possibly facing another consultation and longer wait for any final decision, which is very disheartening.’

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of JCPCT, said: ‘I’m disappointed the judge decided to quash the consultation on an obscure technical point.

‘We respectfully intend to appeal the judge’s decision based on his misunderstanding of the review process.

‘I’m sorry for the delay this ruling may bring given the continued anxiety and frustration among parents of children with congenital heart disease.’