Heart surgery review 'should include Glenfield ECMO unit'

Image caption Plans to move the ECMO unit from Glenfield to Birmingham were not included in the review ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Campaigners fighting to save children's heart surgery services in Leicester say a review ordered by the government does not go far enough.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the review to look again at the planned closure of three units in England.

MP for Harborough Sir Edward Garnier said plans to move ECMO equipment from Glenfield, used to oxygenate patients' blood, should also be reconsidered.

"ECMO and heart surgery go hand-in-hand", said the Conservative MP.

The review follows NHS recommendations to close the units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in west London.

It said it wanted to improve services by creating fewer but larger surgical centres, and said expertise would be retained in the Midlands "through joint planning by Glenfield Hospital and Birmingham Children's Hospital."

'Like a barnacle'

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has been asked to look in detail at how the decisions were reached and report its findings by 28 February, but will not look at plans to move the ECMO unit, the largest in the UK, from Glenfield to Birmingham.

Mr Garnier, who on Monday led a parliamentary debate about plans to close the units, said he welcomed the review but said ECMO and heart surgery were inextricably linked.

"You can't have one without the other and the secretary of state has got to get that into his head."

He vowed to "stick to this issue like a barnacle" until Mr Hunt stopped "hiding behind independent review panels" and showed "political leadership".

"This is a matter that is not going to go away," he said.

Giles Peek, consultant in charge of children's heart surgery at Glenfield, called the review "half a step in the right direction" but added he was disappointed that ECMO was not included.

He said: "It's not about the [ECMO] machine - it's about the people who know how to use it.

"We have one of the best ECMO units in the world and we see the service we provide as crucial to the whole country."

In response to the Heath Secretary's decision to ask the IRP to undertake a full review, Sir Neil McKay, chair of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which recommended the unit closures, said: "We will work closely with the IRP over the coming months to assist the review."

In a statement he said: "The decision on the future of children's heart services, which was welcomed by royal colleges of medicine, doctors, nurses and national charities, was made after carefully considering a number of factors, which included evidence on patient travel times, transferring ECMO services and demand on surgical services.

"The IRP has noted the JCPCT's concern that the process of challenging the decision risks further uncertainty for children's heart services in England."

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