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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat