Royal Brompton Hospital child heart unit closure 'vandalism'
The children's heart surgery unit at a top London hospital is facing closure because of an act of "bureaucratic vandalism", the High Court has heard.
Alan Maclean QC made the accusation on behalf of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.
It is seeking a judicial review against a "deeply flawed and unlawful" consultation process.
The hospital in Chelsea says closing the department would put the viability of the whole hospital at risk.
The west London hospital has the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK.
Its challenge is opposing the consultation process by the Joint Committee of the Primary Care Trusts of England as part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services (PCCS) around the country.
On the first day of what is expected to be a three-day hearing, Mr Maclean said the "Safe and Sustainable" consultation had led to a proposal to reduce the number of centres in London from three to two.
The recommended options favoured keeping the Evelina Hospital, which is part of Guy's and St Thomas' hospital trust, and Great Ormond Street.
Mr Maclean told Mr Justice Owen: "The process has been very deeply flawed in a number of important respects and the upshot is the consultation is unfair and unlawful."
The Royal Brompton was one of two centres which already met the criteria for achieving the stated goal of the review, he said.
But, "surprisingly", it was being got rid of "in an act of bureaucratic vandalism that calls for the clearest justification".
It is believed this is the first legal challenge of its kind to be brought by one NHS body against another.
Speaking ahead of the hearing, Teresa Moss, director of the NHS' Specialised Commissioning team, said: "Safe and Sustainable do not accept the allegations made by the Royal Brompton.
"We will present our own case later this week when we provide evidence in court demonstrating that the principles and processes of the review are robust."
The hearing continues.