Leeds General Infirmary Heart Unit ‘Safe’ From Closure

A Year-Long NHS England Review Has Concluded The Unit "Does Not Have An Excessive Mortality"

14.03.2014

A review has found a children's heart surgery unit that was temporarily closed last year because of fears over a high number of patient deaths is safe.

Data collected suggested a higher death rate than average at Leeds General Infirmary’s paediatric heart unit and surgery was suspended for two weeks for investigations.

NHS England conducted a year-long review and has concluded the unit "does not have an excessive mortality’ but it also found that some families whose children were being treated at LGI received poor care.

On 28 March 2013 operations at the hospital's unit were suspended after NHS England raised concerns about data on mortality rates at the unit.

The decision to suspend surgeries came just a day after a ruling to stop children's heart surgery at the hospital which was part of an England-wide reorganisation of services that was later quashed in the High Court.

Surgery was allowed to resume at the heart unit on 10 April last year after an investigation revealed the mortality data was flawed.

Another review was launched by NHS England to firstly examine the unit's mortality rates and then secondly to review the experience of 16 families who felt they had been let down by LGI.

The new report found that the mortality rates, focusing on the 35 children who died after undergoing surgery between 2009 and 2013, showing the unit "does not have an excessive mortality".

Mike Bewick, NHS England's deputy medical director, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, although services at Leeds General Infirmary were found to be safe, he was "devastated" by some of the findings of the review.

He apologised to the families of sick children who were found to have received poor care, and insisted healthcare was "moving towards a much more compassionate type of medicine".

Mr Bewick continued to say that politicians needed to work more closely with the medical profession to "align what's best practice”.

Sir Roger Boyle, the previous head of the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (Nicor), resigned as England's so-called "heart tsar", when Nicor flagged concerns about Leeds last year.

He said there had been an "overwhelming consensus" in about 2006 that the NHS needed fewer larger child surgical centres that could provide a "comprehensive and safe service".

Expert Opinion
It is great news and a relief for families in Leeds that they continue to have access to the heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

“However, the poor care that has been reported is worrying and steps must be taken by the Trust to investigate exactly what caused these incidents and if needed new measures put in place to ensure that lessons can be learned and the same failures cannot happen again.

“Each patient or family member has a right to answers about why the care provided fell below what can be reasonably expected and showing that improvements have been made will go some way to reassuring that their safety is a top priority for staff within the Trust.”
Rachelle Mahapatra, Partner