‘We will not stand by and watch them destroy our fabulous service!’ – says John Adler chief of Leicester NHS Trust

Childrens services are under attack all over the country – picture shows them being defended at Ealing Hospital
Childrens services are under attack all over the country – picture shows them being defended at Ealing Hospital

THREE of the 13 hospitals across England that provide complex heart care have been ordered to stop doing so by NHS England, alleging concerns over ‘safety standards’.

NHS England has told three units in Leicester, Manchester and London – to halt complex surgery on patients born with heart problems by April 2017.

Five other hospitals providing treatments other than complex surgery will have to stop those services too.

The sites affected have already pledged to fight the decisions.

Hospital managers are describing the announcement as ‘irrational and reckless’.

The services being targeted provide care to people born with congenital heart problems, such as holes in the heart, which affect nine in every 1,000 babies.

The announcement comes after attempts to reorganise services had to be abandoned three years ago following legal challenges by local campaigners and by the hospitals themselves.

This led to NHS England establishing a set of standards that it wanted hospitals to meet to ensure both child and adult patients got high quality care.

The last time such plans were put forward in 2011 it led to a bitter battle, with senior NHS health managers promoting massive cuts.

Two years later the proposals were scrapped, with NHS bosses told to look again.

The huge cuts announced yesterday, covering both adult and children”s services, are the result.

NHS England has announced that surgery will stop at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust in London.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust will be allowed to keep doing surgery despite failing to meet key standards because it is the only unit in the region, so NHS bosses felt it would not be practical to stop surgery there.

Instead the hospital will be given extra support.

Performance at Bristol Children’s Hospital will be monitored after the critical report last week, but it will still be able to provide complex surgery.

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University Hospital of South Manchester, Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Imperial College Healthcare in London will have to stop providing complex medical care, which includes procedures such as widening the arteries and repairing holes in the heart.

Overall, it means the number of units providing the most complex heart surgery drops from 13 to ten.

NHS England said while it would mean some patients travelling further than they previously needed to, the care that would be provided would be safer in the long-term.

Royal Brompton and Harefield chief operating officer Robert Craig described the announcement as ‘extraordinary’.

He said stopping surgery would have a knock-on effect and put other services at risk, including paediatric intensive care, respiratory care and other heart services.

‘Of one thing they can be sure, we will be working closely with NHS England to ensure that full and frank discussions take place to determine what is behind this irrational and reckless announcement.’

John Adler, chief executive at the Leicester trust, said: ‘We are confident that our clinical outcomes are now amongst the best in the country so we strongly disagree with NHS England”s decision and will not sit by whilst they destroy our fabulous service.’