The Royal Brompton Hospital branded the proposals to shut down the children’s heart surgery unit at the hospital as “shot through with legal error” as it sought a judicial review to challenge the closure of the department. It is the first time an NHS organization has taken the health service to court.
For heart surgery on children in England to remain safe and sustainable, the service at Royal Brompton must continue. This is the view of Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, the first person in Britain to perform a heart and lung transplant. This view is shared by many including patients and care workers, who, in a survey about the cardiac surgery at the London hospital praised the care that was received at the children’s unit. On Saturday 9 July, The Brompton Fountain, a charity set up to support families of patients receiving treatment at Royal Brompton, rallied 200 supporters to march the streets of London in protest at the proposal to close the Royal Brompton Hospital’s children’s cardiac surgery unit.
The plans of this closure came about in February when The Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) released recommendations, including proposals to discontinue children’s heart surgery at Royal Brompton Hospital. This was despite a report which rated the hospital highly in a national assessment of all children’s heart surgery centres in England and an analysis which showed that Royal Brompton undertook the necessary number of procedures and had the required number of surgeons to ensure a high quality service was maintained.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust said: “We believe the public consultation is fundamentally flawed and unlawful because the decision to reduce the number of centres in London from three to two does not stand up to scrutiny and it is not transparent.The consultation’s analysis is flawed because it ignores the fact that Royal Brompton fulfils the set criteria, and fails to take into account the disastrous effects on other NHS services if children’s heart surgery is withdrawn.”
Other NHS services which would be directly affected by the closure would include the cystic fibrosis unit and the pediatric intensive care unit at the Royal Brompton.