Inquiry to settle row over heart surgery girl, 3

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The Independent Online
THE HOSPITAL accused of 'ripping off' the parents of a three-year-old girl who had to be admitted for urgent heart surgery as a private patient is to initiate an independent clinical review of the case.

Peter and Ursula Slennett met executives from the Guy's and Lewisham Trust yesterday after they complained about the care provided for their daughter, Hayley.

They paid pounds 8,500 for the treatment at the Government's flagship trust hospital in south London but Hayley was cared for on a busy NHS children's ward. During her stay in the hospital, first reported in the Independent on Sunday, there was no cot for her when she came out of intensive care, and nurses could not find her a pillow.

Peter Griffiths, chief executive of the trust, yesterday described the meeting as 'very constructive'. He said there was a difference of view between the hospital and the Slennetts on the urgency of Hayley's condition, but the issue of a refund had not been raised. 'Quite understandably, they were concerned with the health of their daughter. We had to weigh up her condition with the others waiting for treatment,' he said.

The review would be conducted as part of a normal NHS complaints procedure to report as soon as possible, Mr Griffiths said. It would involve consultants from anywhere in the country who were nominated by the Regional Medical Officer.

The hospital had given Mr and Mrs Slennett an undertaking to review the information provided to parents whose children were to be treated privately.

'There were several points that the Slennetts felt they were not clear on. We must make it clear that we don't have dual standards and that private treatment means only earlier access and choice of surgeon,' Mr Griffiths said.

Mr Slennett said he was satisfied with the independent review but would still seek a refund because they had been misled over Hayley's treatment. There were matters relating to Hayley's clinical assessment prior to the operation that the trust executives were unaware of, he said. 'Several times they were stuck for words.'

Hayley was born with a heart defect and a misplaced artery which was compressing her gullet. The Slennetts were told their daughter had been 'pencilled in' for surgery at the end of May this year, but at the start of that month, Michael Tynan, professor of paediatric cardiology at Guy's, said that the operation would have to be postponed until at least December.

He said that Hayley's frequent collapses and attacks of breathlessness were a combination of 'acting up' and anxiety.

Mr and Mrs Slennett disagreed, saying their daughter was spending most of her days sleeping and that her physical and mental development was that of a 15- month-old. They arranged the operation privately and she was admitted within five days.