The proposals by NHS England to close the congenital heart disease services at the Royal Brompton Hospital have caused concern for a number of my constituents whose families and friends are under the care of the department. It is, of course, absolutely vital that everything possible is done to ensure that every child has the best quality care and that parents and the local community have confidence in the health services we all rely on.
The recent announcement by NHS England – which proposes to transfer children’s heart surgery units from Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and Central Manchester, as well as the Royal Brompton – has understandably caused very serious concerns. These units are incredibly important to the local community and the many people who have been treated there.
Professional health bodies such as the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health and the Royal College of Nursing have been clear that children’s heart services need to change and have backed the principle of fewer, larger specialist centres for children’s heart surgery. Decisions must of course be taken on the basis of what is best for patient care, but I believe it is essential that the public have confidence in the process and the final decision. People are understandably questioning the proposed closure of these units which could see large areas deprived of specialist cardiac units for children, which risks unnecessary strain for families. I am concerned that families may be faced with having to travel further, during what is already a very stressful time for them. The closures have wider reaching implications for paediatric services and I am also aware of concerns that these closures may seriously compromise outcomes.
NHS England has said that its proposals will be subject to public consultation in the New Year and I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation when it opens. I hope that NHS England carefully considers the views of clinical professionals and the wider public who have expressed concern over the proposals before making a final decision.
I have written to Jeremy Hunt to pass on the comments raised by constituents who have contacted me.