Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharkey
15 December 2016
Peers spoke out yesterday (14 December) in support of Royal Brompton’s congenital heart disease (CHD) services during questions in the House of Lords. They highlighted the high standard of care provided at the Trust and the impact that uncertainty about the future of services is having on patients and staff.
Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharkey, asked the government: “How many hospitals have challenged NHS England’s recommendation that they cease to provide special surgical services for congenital heart disease?”
Responding on behalf of the government, Baroness Chisholm (Lords Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office) stated that, while the Department of Health had not received any formal challenges, she was aware there were some concerns. She added that no formal decisions have been made.
Lord Sharkey then said: “The Royal Brompton Hospital is one of the hospitals that has those concerns. NHS England said at a recent meeting in the Commons that there were no concerns over the quality of care provided by the hospital, yet the NHS England proposals for the Royal Brompton would remove a quarter of the paediatric care beds in London when there is already a growing shortage.
“They would also destroy the hospital’s world-leading adult congenital heart disease programme and cost a lot of money. Given all that, can the Minister say exactly what problem the Royal Brompton proposals are aiming to solve?”
Baroness Chisholm said she did not want to go into issues relating to specific hospitals and reiterated that no decisions have been made. She stated that decisions were likely to be made in the summer but that there would be no change on the ground until at least 2018.
The Labour Spokesperson for Health in the Lords, Lord Hunt, raised the issue of co-location of services, saying: “Will [the Minister] confirm that the reason given by NHS England is that the Brompton does not meet its specification, which insists on same-site locations for all children’s services? Can she confirm that one of the hospitals not threatened with closure has multi-site locations, and will she also confirm that the Brompton has one of the best outcomes in the country?”
In response, Baroness Chisholm quoted the supportive statement made in July by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery, mainly concentrating on the size of specialist centres. Royal Brompton is the largest centre for CHD care in the country.
Baroness Gardner, a Conservative Peer and former Trust board member, then spoke strongly in support of the service provided at Royal Brompton, saying: “You have to look at this case specifically because the Brompton has been quite outstanding and does not work in complete isolation… I do not think that anywhere exceeds the Brompton in standards of care for congenital heart conditions. Indeed, there are Members of this House whose children who have had very successful treatment there. We cannot ignore the very special circumstances of this world-famous hospital.”
In response, Baroness Chisholmstated simply that all points could be raised and addressed in the public consultation.
Following a question from Lord Rennard, a Liberal Democrat peer, saying that NHS England should review “the unfair and inconsistently applied standards that may force the closure of congenital heart disease services at the Royal Brompton Hospital, putting lives and life-saving heart disease research at risk,” Baroness Chisholm provided more detail on the standards of minimum operations and said that this would ensure the optimum outcome for all patients.
Baroness Masham asked the Minister if she agreed that the insecurity caused by the debate was very bad for patients and staff not just at the Brompton hospital but throughout the country.
Lord Hunt finished the debate by suggesting that the Minister should just pull the consultation, stating: “It is quite clear that, in the end, the Government will not agree to the closure of the Brompton, because that has been the decision on numerous occasions since 2001. Why not just pull the consultation? It is not going anywhere, my Lords.”
Commenting on the parliamentary activity, Richard Grocott-Mason, medical director at the Trust, said:
“We are extremely grateful for the support of MPs and Peers during this very difficult time for patients. When NHS funding is such an issue, they are not alone in finding it impossible to understand why a large, well-performing service is being dismantled, to be recreated elsewhere with no demonstrable benefit to patients.”
Read the full transcript of the debate.