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Statement regarding the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s review of ‘Safe & Sustainable’

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has today suspended the Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart surgery following publication of a report by the Independent Review Panel.

June 12, 2013

Statement regarding the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s review
of ‘Safe & Sustainable’

A spokesperson for Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust commented:

“Patients and their families will be delighted with this news and it will go some way towards restoring their faith in the NHS. They have never been able to understand how one of the best performing and largest units in the country was destined for closure, especially when statistics showed that the population in London and the South East was growing much faster than had previously been thought, and demand for children’s heart surgery was increasing. We firmly believe that the best solution is for children’s cardiac services to be delivered through a three-centre network, giving access to the best expertise through close collaborative working. This would have the added benefit of avoiding significant spending to expand another London centre to deal with Royal Brompton’s patients.  The network would allow experts to work together in the best interests of patients, to deliver outstanding family-centred care from foetal life, through infancy, childhood and adolescence to adult services.

“The tragedy, of course, is that so many families have been caused a great deal of distress by the flawed review of children’s heart surgery. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their strong support over the past three years and hope they will receive an apology from those responsible for the Safe and Sustainable process.

“While relieved that the IRP recognised the obvious inadequacies of the Safe and Sustainable review, it is highly regrettable that the situation progressed to such a stage. Had the review been undertaken in a genuinely open and transparent way, and had the decision on which centres to close not been taken many months before the sham of a public consultation took place, a very different decision would have been reached last July.

“A strong case was put to those leading the review which showed that closing a London centre was completely unnecessary due to the numbers of children needing heart surgery, and that closing Royal Brompton’s cardiac and intensive care units would have severe knock-on effects on other services at the Trust, including on our children’s respiratory care and research programmes. But the decision had already been made way before the official consultation began in 2011, and our concerns were ignored.

“The IRP was, thankfully, genuinely independent and we are grateful to the Secretary of State for Health for asking the panel to undertake its review, and for accepting its recommendations. We were delighted to learn that the IRP had agreed to consider mortality rates as part of its deliberations as our results are among the very best in the country. We hope that taking account of such evidence helped the panel to reach its conclusions.

“We have many other people to thank for their unwavering support. They include Members of Parliament, especially our local MP Greg Hands, charities such as the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Asthma UK, and clinical colleagues around the world who wrote to the IRP describing the damage to patient care and international research programmes that would result from the closure of our children’s heart surgery unit.

“There is a great deal to be learnt from the Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart services and we hope very much that this is the last of its type to be seen in England. Let us hope that changes to the management structure of the health service introduced by the current administration, mean that the days of a few select members of the NHS ‘inner circle’ making decisions behind closed doors and then designing farcical public consultations to support their plans, are now over.”


Read the IRP's full report and appendices and Jeremy Hunt's speech in the House of Commons

For further information, please contact:
Mark Fenwick
Head of media relations
Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
Tel: 020 7351 8672 / 07866 536 345  
Email: m.fenwick@rbht.nhs.uk

Jo Thomas
Director of communications and public affairs
020 7351 8850 / 07813 025256

Royal Brompton

Sydney Street,
London SW3 6NP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8121


Visit our Safe and Sustainable section to read about:
  • The chronology of the children's heart surgery review
  • The background to the review
  • The Trust's response to the public consultation
  • UK and international comments of support