Future of Child Cardiac Services Decided

Children with heart problems in the Thames Valley will continue to go to Southampton for operations, after a decision was made to keep the unit open.

The review, aiming to streamline services across the country, will see three of the ten child cardiac units across the country close.

The Royal Brompton in Chelsea, Leeds General Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital in Leicester will all carry out their final paediatric heart operations at the end of next year.

This means Thames Valley children will not have their care disrupted, as they will still be able to access services as part of the South of England Congenital Heart Network.

Teams at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital have been working together with their colleagues at Southampton since 2010, when the deaths of four babies at the John Radcliffe led to the suspension of child cardiac operations in Oxford.

Announcing the decision Sir Neil McKay CB, Chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, said:

"This is a landmark decision that clinicians and patients have long called for which will enable the NHS to improve care for children with congenital heart disease.

"The needs of children, not the vested interests of hospitals, have been at the heart of this review.

"We only took the decision after undergoing a robust, fair and transparent process which has already withstood the scrutiny of the highest courts in the land."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood has welcomed a decision:

"The South of England Congenital Heart Network, which links Oxford and Southampton, is well-established, successful and, most importantly, highly valued by patients.

"I am delighted that the Joint Committee has taken account of the input and concerns of local families, patient groups and clinicians in this decision, which I know will be a huge relief and comfort for many people.

"Looking after a child with a congenital heart condition can be emotionally and practically demanding for families, and I welcome the Committee's decision to respect their wish to retain the strong personal and clinical links with Southampton, which make such a difference to the children and their families."

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