Plans to close three children’s heart units have been suspended by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, after an independent review suggested that the decision was based on a “flawed analysis”.
The decision to close the units was made as part of the Safe & Sustainable review. The review identified a need to concentrate expertise in specialist centres. It was therefore recommended that three of the ten units that currently offer paediatric cardiac surgery should be closed, thus concentrating care in fewer, bigger centres.
However, the proposals were heavily criticised. Mr Hunt therefore asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), an advisory body, to assess the decision. The IRP concluded, “The outcome of the Safe & Sustainable review was based on a flawed analysis of the impact of incomplete proposals, and leaves too many questions about sustainability and implementation.”
Mr Hunt has now asked NHS England to “lead a rethink of plans” and to report back by the end of July. Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director for NHS England, said “We welcome the review and NHS England will now study its recommendations in full to learn from them. We will institute a new process that recognises the very strong case for redesigning services to meet the demands of the future whilst addressing the legitimate concerns in our local communities.”