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Opposition to Royal Brompton child heart surgery plans

Opponents of a plan to end child heart surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital claim the entire paediatric unit "faces closure" if the cardiac unit shuts.

Patients, their families and the west London hospital's managers voiced their concerns at the Emirates Stadium.

An NHS review has proposed ending child heart surgery at up to five hospitals, including at the Royal Brompton.

A spokesman for Safe and Sustainable, the NHS review group, said evidence showed larger units had better results.

Almost 15,000 people have so far signed petitions in support of the Royal Brompton's paediatric heart services.

'No substitute'

Last month, the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust launched legal action against the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, which conducted the NHS review.

The trust said its recommendations were "fundamentally flawed" and any consultation based on them would be "unlawful".

In London, children's heart surgery would be carried out at Evelina Children's Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital if the review body's recommendations go ahead.

Image caption The hospital fears its entire paediatric care unit could eventually be closed

Dr Gillian Halley, paediatric intensive care consultant at Royal Brompton said: "If children's heart surgery goes from Royal Brompton, the whole of our paediatric care unit faces closure - anyone who says differently is not living in the real world.

"The recommendations pose a risk to young heart patients, 300 plus children with cystic fibrosis and hundreds more who come into our intensive care unit."

At the public consultation on Saturday, parents of patients said local hospital services were "no substitute" to the care provided by the Royal Brompton and they would lose the "continuity of care" for their children.

Leslie Hamilton, vice chair of Safe and Sustainable, which is reviewing children's congenital heart services, said he believed there had been a recognition by some experts in the field that "change is needed" based on clinical evidence that larger units had better results "by way of fewer deaths and fewer complications".

"In London we have a unique opportunity to pool surgical expertise in two rather than three hospitals," he said.

"As recently as 2009 the Royal Brompton and Great Ormond Street hospitals produced a joint report recommending amalgamating children's heart surgery services in the interests of improving outcomes for children. What was suggested in 2009 by the hospitals themselves holds true today."

A spokesman for NHS London said no decisions would be made until the four months of public consultations were completed in July.

Children's heart surgery has been performed at Royal Brompton since 1969 and more than 400 children are operated on each year, according to the trust.

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