Government decision to close children’s heart surgery units condemned
Government ministers have been warned that they face a backlash over the decision to close children’s heart surgery units in a reorganisation program by the NHS.
The decision to close the units in hospitals in London, Leeds and Leicester was taken on Wednesday evening, meaning that the number of hospitals with units operating on children’s hearts has dropped from 11 to just seven.
The hospitals no longer able to perform operations will remain in use for cardiology services, and children will continue to be examined and evaluated for procedures in them.
The committee’s members who made the decision insisted that they did so in the best interests of children suffering with heart problems. Committee chairman Sir Neil McKay said: “This is a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for, which will enable the NHS to improve care for children[…]The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review.”
The Chief executive of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, which is set to lose its unit despite taking the case to a high court review, disagreed. He said: “It is very difficult to know what to say at times like these, but it is even more difficult to try to understand how this committee could have come to such a decision.”
MPs have denounced the closures in the House of Commons, with many demanding an explanation from the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. The Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham voiced his concerns about the areas of England that will now be left without a local service.
He said: “It is simply not acceptable for Health Ministers to go into hiding when major, life-changing decisions are being made[…]We urgently need to know whether the Government supports this selection and, if so, why?”