Children's Heart Surgery Consultation Launched

A Consultation Has Been Launched Into The Future of Children's Heart Surgery

15.09.2014

A consultation has been launched into the future of children's heart surgery by NHS England, as it looks to win approval from hospitals, politicians, patients' families and associated charities for proposed changes.

The Guardian reports that in the past, proposals to shut down heart surgery units have met with much controversy and in some cases have even ended up in court, leading to something of a black cloud surrounding the discussion of what should happen to children's heart services in the coming years.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt ruled that these initial reviews into the future of care provisions for such patients had been flawed and over the past year, extensive discussions have been taking place with all interested parties, which have eventually led to the publication of this consultation document.

It is proposing that all ten hospitals offering children's heart surgery should be kept open, but each unit must have a minimum of four specialist surgeons, carrying out at least 125 procedures every year.

This will ensure cover can be provided if surgeons are off sick and will make sure they become experts in the field due to regularly performing operations.

The report has also taken into account the potential need for adult heart services to be improved, as children's care thrives and leads to more young people born with heart defects surviving into adulthood.

Additionally, it wants communication between hospital departments and patients' families to improve to ensure children's needs are being catered for as best as possible.

In response to whether or not she thought the consultation would lead to an end to the controversy surrounding the subject, national clinical director for children, young people and transition to adulthood at NHS England Dr Jackie Cornish stated: "I personally hope so. I hope there is recognition that we have very effectively engaged with patients, parents and families and placed them right in the middle of our decision-making process.

"They have been integral to developing the standards and we have responded to their needs and suggestions."

Expert Opinion
The discussion surrounding specialist heart units has been rumbling on for a long time, meaning the launch of this consultation is very welcome.

“This is undoubtedly a massively emotive issue and it is vital that any decisions on the matter are made in a manner which ensures the best interests of patients are always the top priority.

“The ultimate focus must be on ensuring that services operate so that all patients can access high quality, timely care regardless of where they live. The NHS and the Government must ensure they work closely with patients groups and families to ensure the best possible decisions are made on this matter.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner