London

Royal Brompton Hospital child heart surgery plans challenged

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Hospital
Image caption Royal Brompton's child heart unit is earmarked for closure

A London NHS trust is to challenge proposals to end child heart surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital.

The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust said the move would mean the loss of other services, which could call into question its viability.

An NHS review into child heart units proposes stopping operations at either four or five hospitals, including the Royal Brompton.

An NHS spokeswoman called the trust's actions "disappointing".

The Joint Committee of PCTs (JCPCT) has proposed four options - all of which involve stopping operations at either four or five hospitals.

But the trust has branded the recommendations "fundamentally flawed".

Four options

A total of 11 units are under review including services at three London hospitals: The Evelina Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Brompton Hospital.

A final decision will be made in the autumn following a public consultation.

The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust's board said that the recommended options put for consultation were so flawed that a consultation based on them would be "unlawful".

The trust also questioned the fact that the main body influencing the decision to reduce London's three centres to two included representatives from the other two London hospitals under review, but not any from Royal Brompton.

It claimed that representatives from Great Ormond Street and the Evelina played an active role in the decision which favoured their own centres at the expense of Royal Brompton.

The trust is now applying for judicial review, challenging the legality of the consultation.

Bob Bell, chief executive of the trust, said: "It's like unknitting a sweater. Once you start you would not end up with a sweater, you will end up with something else.

"We are not in favour of participating in a process that doesn't look at the total impact of the reconfiguration issues."

Two separate approaches have been made to the JCPCT in order to avoid legal action.

'No decision'

The trust said that the first request to delay the start of the consultation was rejected and that the JCPCT failed to respond to a request to suspend the consultation while its concerns were heard.

A spokesperson for the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Although this is a decision we have taken with the greatest reluctance and regret, we feel we have no alternative but to act in the interests of our patients.

"What we cannot accept is that a large, successful centre like Royal Brompton is not even included as an option in the consultation process, despite it being of the required size and despite its impressive record."

Teresa Moss, NHS director of the national specialised commissioning team, said: "No decisions on the future of the service at the Royal Brompton Hospital have been made.

"It is extremely disappointing that we find ourselves having to defend the integrity of senior NHS clinicians."

In another development the BBC learned that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley asked the independent reconfiguration panel to consider whether plans to move A&E and maternity services from the King George Hospital in Ilford to the Queens Hospital in Romford were viable.

The panel was asked to consult local residents and doctors, delaying the process until July.

The move comes after campaigners trying to save A&E and maternity services in Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield were given a month to come up with an alternative solution.

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