QC Investigates Cardiac Services At Bristol Childrens Hospital

Review to Examine Treatment Given To Children and Experiences Of Parents

25.06.2014

A review into cardiac services at Bristol Children’s Hospital is set to complete by autumn and is promising to provide emotional support to the families concerned.

Eleanor Grey QC has been commissioned by NHS England to conduct the review which will not hold any public hearings as she says confidentiality and support for witnesses would be an "important principle" of its work.

The inquiry has been launched after Bristol Children's Hospital was accused of neglect and mistreatment of babies and children with heart problems.

It has previously been revealed that around 10 families could be taking legal action against the trust, including seven whose children died following treatment at the hospital.

Ms Grey will examine care provided to children with congenital heart disease and the experiences of parents and carers from March 2010 until the present day but said she would be happy to receive relevant information about earlier events.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, who specialises in the law and ethics of healthcare and acted as chairman of an inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary, which published its report in 2001, will act as consultant adviser.

Ms Grey, who is a former counsel to the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry, said: "We won't be having any public hearings. We want witnesses to feel as free and as well-supported as possible when they give their evidence."

"They will be free to bring a friend or a trade union representative, for example. We will also be offering independent, professional emotional support for participants, provided free under the NHS."

A spokesman for University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "We welcome this review and look forward to assisting as it gathers the views of patients and families over the coming months.

"It's important that families who wish to share their views on the care provided by our children's heart unit can do so easily and through a variety of accessible channels.

"We will make sure that Eleanor Grey QC and her team have full and unfettered access to the information they need and our expert clinical staff, managers and members of the trust board will be available to talk to the panel and answer their questions during the course of the review.

Expert Opinion
We welcome this review and its focus on supporting the participating families as they must be made to feel comfortable and reassured that the information they provide is treated in the strictest confidence.

“However, it is vital that the subsequent findings are made public as quickly as possible.

“Families who believe their children were subjected to sub-standard cardiac care must be given answers about what systems failed that could make failings possible, and what lessons can be learnt to protect future patient safety.

“These lessons must then be shared transparently throughout the NHS so cardiac services across the country are providing the best possible care and patients have reassurance that their safety is the top priority.”
Julie Lewis, Partner