CONSULTATION has begun into the closures of children’s heart surgeries in England after a review last year.
There was a huge public outcry against the closure programme of the NHS ‘Safe & Sustainable review’ which forced the government to dismiss the report as ‘flawed’.
However, now a public consultation on new guidelines is due to end in December.
They focus on surgery for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) – birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart.
Ten hospitals currently provide CHD surgery – one of the most complex procedures in the NHS. They are: Great Ormond Street, London, Evelina Children’s Hospital, London, Royal Brompton, London, Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Alder Hey, Liverpool, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Bristol, and Southampton General.
There was strong opposition to last year’s review, which concluded that surgery should end at Leeds, Leicester and the Royal Brompton and be focused at the remaining seven sites – which would become ‘centres of excellence’.
NHS England said the new draft standards cover every part of the patient’s life from early diagnosis during pregnancy, through childhood, adult life, planning a family and onwards.
A decision on which hospitals will close or remain open will be made by spring next year.
Julian Porter, one of the Stafford Hospital occupiers, whose grounds have been occupied by local residents for over two months to stop the closure of Maternity and Paediatrics said: ‘Why on earth can’t we afford all our specialist hospitals?
‘This isn’t about spreading skills around or “centralisation”, it’s about money.
‘I think it’s come to the point that we have to occupy.
‘The consultation is a fix, the government has already made up its mind.
‘So those of us who care about the future of the NHS have to in a very short timeturn this around. Occupying all of these vital specialist hospitals will be a powerful action.
‘We will support any occupation in any way we can to stop hospital closures.’
• Nurses from across Europe are being used as a ‘pragmatic’ ‘stop gap’ in Leicester as hospitals face huge staffing shortage, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) spokeswoman Sheila Marriott has said.
The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHLT) had hired 206 international nurses since January, the new nurses were given just a two-month induction, an NHS spokesman said.
Marriott said: ‘This is very much a stop gap, but it is not sustainable in the long-term.
‘It is a pragmatic step in the short term, but we need to get away from “boom and bust” planning and get systems in place for (UK) training that are not going to be cut every time there are financial pressures in the NHS,’ she said.
She said there were not enough nurses in the UK because ‘there are just not enough training places’.
Nurses are being recruited from Ireland, Spain and Portugal because many local nurses there are unemployed due to massive public services cuts, she added.