Doors Set To Close On Child Heart Op Units

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Children's heart surgery at some of the UK's leading hospitals will stop, under controversial NHS plans to be agreed today.


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David Crocker, 8, is due to have a life-saving operation


At least four of England's 11 units will close, with surgeons transferred to bigger, regional centres.

Sick children will face longer journeys, but the NHS review team believes it will make possible increasingly complex operations around the clock.

Southampton General Hospital operates on 350 children born with serious heart conditions each year - and is hiring a fourth consultant surgeon in the hope of taking on more work under the reorganisation.

Consultant cardiologist Dr James Gnanapragasam told Sky News bigger units are better for children with rare heart conditions.

"You need at least four surgeons to make sure they are not overburdened with their out of hours work in addition to day time work," he said.

"Some of these operations are very complicated. It stands to reason that the more you do, you are likely to be better."

Five-month-old Hannah Slater owes her life to the surgeons at the hospital. Her mum Charlotte says the expert care makes the 60-mile round trip from home worthwhile.

"The quality of care has to come first," she said.

"It is a relatively short period of time in her life. It's really tough at the moment, but it's only six months and hopefully travelling here will give us the opportunity to have a much longer period of time with her.chunga

"We were just incredibly lucky that we have such a world-class facility."

Currently, London has three children's heart surgery units. Southampton, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham, Leicester, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle also operate on children.

The NHS medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, asked the National Specialised Commissioning Group to review surgery to ensure the spread of services was appropriate.

The group will present a series of options at a public meeting, with an agreed plan then put out for consultation.

But some families will have to travel further for surgery.

Eight-year-old David Crocker was due to have a life-saving operation at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, but surgery there was suspended last year after a higher than normal death rate.

His mum, Maria, fears her son - who is autistic - will be unsettled by an operation elsewhere.

"To be told, that he's got to have his surgery at a different hospital, where he's not going to be familiar with those particular grounds, those particular surgeons, that particular ward, then it's going to terrify him," she said.

"It's going to make the whole healing process after surgery a lot longer."
 
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