Supporters angered over shunning of Leeds’ paediatric heart surgery unit
Comments from the former National Director for Heart Disease, Sir Roger Boyle, over the recently reopened Leeds paediatric heart surgery unit have angered members of the Save our Surgery (SOS) support group.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning, Sir Roger Boyle said that the“[number of deaths] are on the edge of acceptability” and rather disdainfully added that he “wouldn’t let Leeds General Infirmary treat [his] own daughter”.
Data leaked by Sir Roger at the end of last month showed death rates running at twice the national average, raising safety concerns. This, in turn, led to the temporary suspension of surgery at the centre.
The decision was revoked earlier this week following NHS England’s assessment that immediate concerns had been addressed, and the surgery resumed operations on the 10th April.
Sir Roger’s radio comments were met by dismay from members of the SOS campaign group. A statement by Sharon Cheng on the SOS website read: “Sir Roger Boyle’s comments of this morning are extremely unhelpful and undermine the progress made over the last few days to begin to rebuild heart patients’ families’ trust and confidence in the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit.”
Cheng also remarked: “This is an example of Sir Roger Boyle speaking out without due regard to the necessary process, the verified facts or the implications of his actions on patients and their families” – a sentiment shared by the Medical Director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, and supported by data from the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR).
Tasked with assessing the safety of a number of similar heart units, NICOR concluded: “By definition, around half of all units will have more deaths than ‘expected’. It is therefore inappropriate to label centres as ‘blameworthy’ for these deaths.” Leeds was one of three units looked at but did not breach the alert threshold.
Meanwhile Sir Bruce Keogh, speaking to the BBC, called for Sir Roger to step down from his role in the Safe & Sustainable review of paediatric cardiac services in England and Wales.
The Medical Director said he would have no problem in sending his own children to Leeds and reiterated that the children’s heart unit is safe.