Children's heart surgery should be stopped at a hospital where four babies died under the care of one surgeon, according to a Government review published today.
The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford should no longer be allowed to perform children's heart surgery after experts found it was the least likely out of 11 centres in England to meet new quality standards.
It follows a damning report in July which highlighted issues at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, including attempts to "restrict" knowledge of problems following the deaths.
The latest review was carried out into all paediatric heart surgery units in England, with a view to concentrating operations into fewer specialist centres.
Research has shown that hospitals which perform a larger number of operations are better able to keep up expertise among their staff.
Today's report, from the NHS Safe and Sustainable review team, said: "The service at the John Radcliffe Hospital received the lowest ranking assessment of the current 11 centres by a significant margin.
"Oxford is therefore the least likely of the 11 surgical centres to meet all the new quality standards for children's heart surgery.
"Therefore, the NHS review will recommend that it should not be included in any potential configuration option for surgery.
"Instead, it is proposed the Oxford centre will continue to provide specialised cardiology services for children."
A spokesman for the hospital said: "This is very disappointing news for Oxford.
"The John Radcliffe Hospital is one of the smallest centres in the country, but we had hoped that the Safe and Sustainable team would recognise the potential that Oxford has in terms of geographical location and the presence of other connected clinical services on site."
Children's heart surgery was suspended at the unit, the smallest in England, in March after four babies died within a few months of surgeon Caner Salih starting work at the hospital.
After the fourth death under his care, in February, Mr Salih raised the alarm and decided to stop operating, having already complained about the age of equipment and poor working practices at the unit.
An investigation by the South Central strategic health authority (SHA) said Mr Salih was not to blame for the deaths.
It found problems at the trust, including a lack of preparation for his arrival and no senior cover to help him.
When the doctor raised his concerns, the trust failed to act for at least 11 days and there was "no evidence" of a "clear plan of action".
That report said: "On the contrary, there seems to us to have been attempts to minimise the scale of the problem and to restrict knowledge of it."
It was only when journalists began to investigate the incidents that the trust took action.
Andrew Stevens, director of planning and information at the trust, said today: "Oxford is one of the smallest centres and the main thrust of the Safe and Sustainable review is that there should be fewer, larger paediatric cardiac surgery centres in the future.
"It is perhaps therefore not surprising that Oxford was felt to have the highest mountain to climb."
Just 120 or so operations a year were carried out at the unit each year. An inquest into the death of one of the babies, Natalie Lo, who died aged 23 days, is to be held in Oxford later this month.Reuse content