The children's heart surgery unit of a leading hospital is facing closure because of "bureaucratic vandalism", the High Court heard yesterday.

The accusation was made by a QC for Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, west London, which has an international reputation for specialist paediatric services.

The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is seeking a judicial review, arguing it is the victim of a "deeply flawed" consultation process "shot through with legal error". It says closure of the unit will put the viability of the whole hospital at risk.

The consultation was launched by the Joint Committee of the Primary Care Trusts of England as part of a national review aimed at streamlining paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services around the country.

Alan Maclean QC, for the Royal Brompton, said the Safe and Sustainable consultation had led to a proposal to reduce the number of centres in London from three to two.

The recommended options favoured keeping the Evelina Hospital, part of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, and Great Ormond Street. None of the options included Royal Brompton.

"The process has been very deeply flawed in a number of important respects and the upshot is the consultation is unfair and unlawful," Mr Maclean said.

Royal Brompton is one of two centres in the country which already met the criterion for achieving the stated goal of the review, he said. But it was being closed "in an act of bureaucratic vandalism".

It's the first time that one NHS organisation has taken out a legal case against another.

Teresa Moss, director of the NHS's National Specialised Commissioning Team, said before the hearing: "Safe and Sustainable do not accept the allegations made today by the Royal Brompton. We will present our own case later this week... demonstrating that the principles and processes of the review are robust.

The recent public consultation shows there is widespread support for the Safe and Sustainable proposals."

The hearing continues tomorrow.