Child heart surgery at Leeds had to stop

Posted: March 29, 2013 by Ellion hossain in News
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The medical director of the NHS has defended the suspension of child heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary while a safety review is carried out.

Boy with stethoscope
Congenital heart defects in children are rare

Sir Bruce Keogh said the trust had no choice, after data suggested a death rate twice the national average, and surgeons had raised their concerns.

He conceded the timing, just 24 hours after a High Court ruling kept the unit open, was “embarrassing”.

MP Stuart Andrew, who fought to keep the unit open, said it was “very odd”.

The hospital is at the centre of a long-running dispute over the future of children’s heart services, and an NHS review said surgery would be better focused at fewer, larger sites.

But Sir Bruce said the decision, taken by the trust, was based purely on the present situation, adding there was a “constellation” of reasons.

He said: “There have been rumblings in the cardiac surgical community for some time that all was not well in Leeds.”

On Tuesday, two surgeons had called him to express concerns and on Wednesday there was another telephone call from an “agitated cardiologist”.

The cardiologist was worried about mortality rates for the last two years, which Sir Bruce said were “about twice the national average or more” and rising.

There were also suspicions that the hospital was not referring patients involved in complex cases to other heart units where they could get better care.

“As medical director I couldn’t do nothing. I was really disturbed about the timing of this.

“I couldn’t sit back just because the timing was inconvenient, awkward or would look suspicious, as it does.”

He visited the hospital on Thursday to present the evidence and the trust decided to suspend operations.

Leeds General Infirmary
There has been a battle to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds

Children who would have been treated in Leeds will be sent to other hospitals around England.

Affected families are being contacted directly by the trust and the review is expected to take three weeks.

Mr Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, who has led a cross-party campaign to keep the unit open, said it was a “very odd” decision coming after the jubilation that greeted the court ruling on Wednesday.

“We have always asked them ‘is it safe at Leeds?’ and the answer always came back ‘yes it is’.

“What is the information that says that has changed?”

He added he had not received one complaint about care, only praise from parents of young patients.



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