Health Secretary Orders Child Heart Review

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of NHS plans to close three children’s heart surgery units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in west London. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) is to consider in detail how the decisions were reached and is to report its findings by 28 February 2013.

The campaign group Save Our Surgery (SOS) has started legal proceedings against NHS officials who made the decision about the Leeds unit. They have 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”. He said “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“.

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

ECMO, an emergency treatment for respiratory problems, was 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.

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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