Leeds children’s heart unit looks ‘unlikely to shut’

Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by Gabriel Szabo/ Guzelian.
Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by Gabriel Szabo/ Guzelian.
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Children’s heart surgery supporters are confident that the saga surrounding the future of Leeds’ unit will come to a positive conclusion this summer.

A new national review of congenital heart surgery is ongoing before new standards for care at units across the country are proposed by NHS England.

NHS trusts will be expected to meet the new standards within three years amid a climate of tight funding, and supporters of Leeds General Infirmary’s unit believe it has a big future.

The positivity comes despite the fact that nine families plan to launch legal action against Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) over treatment at the unit, after the trust apologised to the family of 11-year-old Bradley Brough, from York, over errors in his care.

Sharon Coyle, chief executive of the Leeds Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: “It’s very unlikely that any centres are going to close from what I gather.”

Describing the allegations against the trust as “historic”, she said: “It’s been such a long journey with people talking of cover-ups, yet we’ve had an independent review.”

In 2009 NHS England set about plans to reduce the number of hospitals carrying out children’s heart surgery. Leeds’ unit was one of three earmarked for closure. Supporters won a High Court battle to overturn the decision due to a “flawed” consultation in 2013 before the unit was closed for two weeks over unfounded mortality rate concerns.

A year-long independent review by Verita later showed some patients received poor care but deemed the service safe in 2014.

Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at LTH, said: “We believe the service here in Leeds is very well placed to be able to continue to provide the fully comprehensive and integrated congenital heart service.”

LTH has invested more than £1.75million in children’s heart services over the past two years.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “NHS England is undertaking a review of services for children and adults with congenital heart disease to ensure all patients receive high quality care wherever they live.

“We want consistent services across the country that meet the highest standards and are able to offer resilient 24/7 care.”

The organisation is working with national and local commissioners, providers and patient groups to establish timely and appropriate commissioning processes as well as improvements in the available information about the performance of congenital heart services. The future of the UK’s congenital heart disease units will be shaped by this commissioning process.