Royal Brompton loses fight to keep child heart unit

 

A London hospital has lost its legal bid to save a children’s heart unit after the Court of Appeal ruled that the national review recommending its closure was in fact lawful.

The Royal Brompton Hospital had temporarily derailed NHS plans to concentrate children’s heart surgery in fewer hospitals after a judge found the ‘Safe and Sustainable’ review was unfair because of a “flawed” assessment of the hospital’s research and innovation programme.

But three Court of Appeal judges yesterday overturned the November decision, ruling that the process was fair, lawful and proper.

This paves the way for the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which runs the review, to decide which four or five of England’s 11 paediatric heart surgery units will close. The JCPCT today promised to make its decision, which could still save the Royal Brompton, with an “open mind”.

But the final decision on 4 July will undoubtedly prove controversial, despite widespread agreement that concentrating specialist medical expertise in fewer, larger centres improves safety and quality of care for patients.

The Safe and Sustainable review was launched in 2008 following the scandal at Bristol Royal Infirmary in the 1990s, where as many as 35 babies and children died because of substandard care.

Sir Roger Boyle, former heart disease and stroke tsar, said: “This is a landmark judgment for future NHS reconfigurations. The Court of Appeal has recognised that the process of public consultation – not costly litigation – is the most appropriate way for public bodies to express their views on proposed changes. The NHS must ensure that the clinical benefits for children and other patients come first – not the vested interests of individual hospitals.”

The consultation has led to bitter debates and local tensions, even though all 11 hospitals ‘signed-up’ to the process. In particular the “preferred option” put forward by the JCPCT outraged the Royal Brompton as it was the only one of three units in London earmarked for closure. The review recommended that its unit should be merged into Great Ormond Street and Guy's and St Thomas's.

The hospital sued the JCPCT, the first time one NHS organisation has taken action against another, claiming the decision was a “classic backroom stitch-up”. The judge rejected those claims but upheld that the consultation had been unfair to the Trust because of a “flawed” assessment of its research and innovation.

The judges yesterday dismissed the original ruling, but also spoke of the Trust’s excellent reputation.

They said: “A member of the public might well find it difficult to understand why a centre of the standard of the Royal Brompton should cease to be a centre for paediatric cardiac surgical services under the configuration exercise.”

The Brompton, which is the UK’s largest specialist heart and lung centre, last night said it was “disappointed” by the decision. They remained convinced that closing the cardiac unit could make its world class children and adult’s respiratory service unviable. 

But medical experts said the proposed changes were in the best interest of patient safety.

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons said: “It’s desperately sad for high performing units and their patients when they are transferred elsewhere, but in the long term this may be best for patients and that is the most important point. Simply condemning change as bad without looking at the evidence is not serving the interests of patients.”

The Royal Brompton said: “We regret that resources have had to be diverted to this legal case, but when serious assaults are made on patient care, when internationally acclaimed clinical teams are effectively put on notice, when groundbreaking research teams who may be on the cusp of a significant breakthrough in cystic fibrosis tell us their research will not be possible under the Safe and Sustainable proposals, then drastic measures are called for. What better cause is there than the health of vulnerable children?”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

Recruitment Genius: Fence Installer - Commercial

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This privately owned Fencing Co...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £22,000

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you answer yes, this company...

Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'