Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt orders child heart review

Image caption The process has prompted a series of protests

A full review of plans to close three children's heart surgery units has been ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The NHS recommended closing the units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in west London.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has been asked to look in detail at how the decisions were reached.

It has been asked to report its findings by 28 February.

Earlier this month a campaign group which is fighting to keep the Leeds unit open started legal proceedings against NHS officials who made the decision.

'Frankly wrong'

Save Our Surgery (SOS) said it had filed for permission for a judicial review against the decision made by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) to close the unit.

If the judicial review goes ahead, the IRP review will be put on hold.

In a parliamentary debate, prompted by an e-petition opposing moving the Glenfield unit which attracted more than 100,000 signatures, Conservative Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier said: "The message to take back to the department is that the unit must stay open.

"The current decision is frankly wrong and Parliament is required to change that decision."

Health Minister Anna Soubry said the review would "look at all the decisions and will look at the implications of those decisions and that means the implications for the ECMO unit at Glenfield".

'Improved service'

Adam Tansey, from heart charity Keep The Beat, organised the petition.

His son Albert, who was born with half a heart, had open heart surgery when he was only seven days old and has received continuing treatment at Glenfield Hospital.

Mr Tansey said: "This is what we wanted. We wanted an independent review and this is what they have come forward with.

"This isn't a decision that is going to affect just the children that are in Glenfield, or in centres across the country, this year, it is a decision for the next decade.

"So it is very important we get it right and it is very important everyone involved in that decision understands everything and nothing is hidden away."

The JCPCT said in July the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre at Glenfield should be one of three to close nationally.

It said creating fewer but larger surgical centres would improve the service.

The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.

After the inquiry, it was recommended that paediatric cardiac units be set a target for the number of operations per year, and surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres to ensure quality of care.

ECMO - an emergency treatment for respiratory problems - were not part of the original JCPCT decision.

Previous Health Secretary Andrew Lansley decided to move the ECMO department only after the decision to relocate the children's congenital heart surgery services had been made.

Councillors in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire had also contacted Mr Hunt with concerns about the closure of the unit at Glenfield.

Chairman of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Michael Cooke, said: "I am delighted to hear the news of this review but I am disappointed that the ECMO service is not being considered as part of that review, and will be looking at that issue separately.

"We acknowledge that the decision over ECMO was made by the secretary of state separately from the decision over Glenfield, but clearly it would make no sense for the ECMO service to move if the heart surgery was to remain at Glenfield.

"If one decision is to be reviewed then the other one must also be."

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