16 December 2016
The three charities for patients, families and supporters of Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust have today launched a campaign calling on NHS England to change their plans to decommission congenital heart disease services from the Trust.
The charities – The Brompton Fountain, Friends of the Royal Brompton, and The Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity – say that the plans will not improve care for patients, and are instead an exercise in “bureaucratic box-ticking”.
The Brompton Fountain marked the launch by delivering a giant Christmas card to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, asking him to overturn the plans. The card was signed by hundreds of Brompton Fountain supporters. The launch of the Christmas campaign was filmed by BBC London News, to be broadcast to over 800,000 people on BBC1 this weekend.
The charities are encouraging people concerned about the plans to register with the organisers in advance of further action in the new year, and to write to their MP to express their concerns and call on Mr Hunt to overrule the plans. Although details were not released, it is expected that campaign plans include a march and demonstration outside parliament. People are also being encouraged to show their support on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #BromptonPatientsMatter.
Children with serious breathing difficulties also affected
NHS England managers say the plans are part of a national review of congenital heart disease services and are necessary to ensure future care quality. Patients, doctors and nurses opposing the plans have voiced their disbelief that one of the country’s best performing services could be sacrificed in a bid to standardise care.
Royal Brompton’s children’s intensive care unit would also close as a result of the plans, making it impossible to care for children with serious respiratory conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Campaigners argue that it is unfair to treat these patients as “collateral damage” in upheavals only intended to affect congenital heart disease patients. In total, over 14,000 Royal Brompton patients would be affected.
It is feared that the plans could turn the recently-reported shortage of children’s intensive care beds in the South of England into a full-blown national crisis.
Experts from around the world have also pointed out that the plans would harm future care quality by forcing Royal Brompton’s adult congenital heart disease research unit – widely recognised as the best in the world – to close.
“Don’t break a beating heart”
Elizabeth Henderson, chief executive of Friends of the Royal Brompton added “Throughout the entire process, NHS England managers have been completely unable to explain how their plans will make things better for patients. The NHS should be about helping patients, and the managers who run it should be able to understand that.”
Trudy Nickels, chief executive of the Brompton Fountain said “Our message to Jeremy Hunt and the managers at NHS England is simple. This service is working. It is one of the best in the country and it is saving lives. Don’t break a beating heart.”
Gill Raikes, chief executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity said “NHS England first announced these plans through the media in July, saying everything would be done and dusted by next April. It’s now clear that they won’t even have finished their public consultation by then.
"These constant delays and the blatant disregard for the anxiety and uncertainty they cause patients and staff are unacceptable. And still NHS managers have been unable to explain to us what problem they are trying to solve with this upheaval. We are launching this campaign today to say enough is enough”.