Vic backlash over heart surgery bombshell

Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Blackpool Victoria Hospital
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The Government has dropped a bombshell by announcing some services at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s £52m cardiac unit face the axe.

The number of hospitals across the country allowed to perform heart surgery will be cut by NHS England in the moves announced today.

Health bosses say the move will see better outcomes for patients, though Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has voiced his worry about the NHS making future cuts to Blackpool’s cardiac unit.

Mr Marsden said: “This is further evidence of the government’s duplicity about saying there are no cuts in the NHS. In terms of Blackpool, we fought very hard to get the cardiac facility.

“It was a huge campaign and we must make sure the unit is not chopped into pieces by NHS England.”

As part of the changes, some 13 specialist surgical centres across England will be reduced to 10, and nine level two specialist cardiac centres will be cut to four.

All were assessed against new standards to work out if they were providing good care.

And while they were all found to be providing safe care – with death rates within acceptable limits – NHS England said some saw too few cases to maintain standards.

Evidence suggests surgeons should see a certain number of patients each year to ensure they remain competent.

Officials at NHS England hope that by centralising services, outcomes for patients will continue to improve, with more patients surviving and those children born with congenital heart defects living longer into adulthood.

Director of specialised commissioning, Dr Jonathan Fielden, said: “Patients, families and staff need to be assured of sustainable, high-quality services now, and into the future. There has been a great deal of uncertainty over the future of congenital heart disease services over the past 15 years.

“We owe it to patients, families and staff to end that uncertainty.

“We are determined to take all actions necessary to ensure that those standards are met, so that patients get the high quality and safe services that they expect and deserve.”

Several reviews into congenital heart disease services have been carried out since the Bristol heart scandal in the 1990s, with an investigation launched into high death rates amongst babies undergoing heart surgery.

Prof O’Donnell, said “We at Blackpool have been involved with providing a service for patients with congenital heart disease for more than 45 years.

“We have strict governance procedures built in and we audit our work closely and submit our results. Our results match the best in the country, which is a testament to the remarkable work done by our clinical teams.

“The moves announced are designed to create specialised, regional centres across the country that can deal with such patients and as our numbers are so low we are required to now refer patients to other centres. Discussions are taking place with Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital to ensure our patients continue to receive the best care. “