Top surgeons call to save Royal Brompton heart unit

Image source, Alex Orrow/Royal Brompton & Hare
Image caption,
Royal Brompton is the largest specialist heart and lung medical centre in the UK

Two of Britain's top surgeons have called on NHS England to save a world-leading heart unit in London.

Heart transplant pioneer Sir Magdi Yacoub and cancer surgeon Lord Darzi said ending congenital heart disease (CHD) surgery at Royal Brompton Hospital would be a "disaster".

An NHS England's review recommends ending children's congenital heart surgery at Royal Brompton.

The decision "has been guided" by medical experts, NHS England said.

In an open letter, Lord Darzi, Sir Magdi and Baroness Boothroyd, a former patient of the hospital, said if Royal Brompton's CHD unit went it would render the whole hospital "unviable".

Image source, Press Association
Image caption,
In an open letter former health minister Lord Darzi claimed NHS England "deliberately" defined new guidelines to dismantle CHD services at the Royal Brompton

Royal Brompton is the largest specialist heart and lung medical centre in the UK and works with the children's unit at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, less than half-a-mile away.

But the hospital fails to meet new national guidelines for paediatric heart surgery, which require all children's services to be "co-located" on a single site.

If paediatric heart surgery was removed, the hospital may struggle to meet its targets of having at least three heart surgeons, each carrying out a minimum of 125 operations a year, which would put the whole CHD surgery unit under threat.

The letter claims that the new guidelines have been "defined in such as way as to deliberately result in the dismantling of the services at the Brompton".

Medical experts

"You shouldn't kill a centre of excellence just for planning reasons," Sir Magdi said.

"Closing the Royal Brompton heart surgery unit would be a disaster."

He added: "Anything that comes after won't be as good treating patients and making medical advancements."

A spokesman for NHS England said "isolated children's services are unacceptable; children's cardiac services must be co-located within a hospital providing a broad range of paediatric specialties and services".

The guidelines are supported by medical experts from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, British Congenital Cardiac Association, British Heart Foundation and the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

A decision will be announced on 30 November.

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