Bereaved mum stages vigil at children's hospital
A MOTHER whose baby died during the Bristol Heart Scandal in the 1990s protested outside the children's hospital over her concerns about care.
Marie Edwards, whose daughter Jazmine would have turned 20 yesterday, believes the lessons of the inquiry into the deaths of babies after heart surgery in the 80s and 90s have still not been learned.
She returned to Bristol Children's Hospital, which was built as part of the solution to the problems 20 years ago when too many young patients died after heart surgery, to hold a peaceful protest yesterday. Ms Edwards said she wanted to protest on the 20th anniversary of her daughter's birth because she fears the hospital is "still losing too many lives".
She is also concerned that the decision to reduce the number of operations in response to the health regulator's concerns about high dependency provision goes against the recommendations of the Kennedy report, which followed the original Bristol Heart Scandal, for surgeons to carry out more procedures.
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As previously reported in The Post, parents and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns about the care of patients on a ward for children who had undergone heart surgery this year. An inspection found that staffing levels on ward 32 were not high enough to meet the high dependency care required by some of the patients after heart surgery. The hospital reduced the number of cardiac operations it was carrying out while it worked on providing a dedicated high dependency unit and said it has been inspected by the CQC again.
Marie Edwards set up a support group in the wake of the original scandal and has been campaigning for better audits of heart surgery.
She fears that until "real-time" audits of surgical procedures are available, parents cannot make informed decisions about where their children have heart operations.
Ms Edwards, 44, said: "I don't take lightly coming here from my own emotional point of view.
"It isn't somewhere I wanted to be, or foresaw myself being, after having endured a public inquiry and the Kennedy report. I am amazed, astounded and horrified that this is still going on.
"They have amazing surgery but it is the care that is the issue."
Robert Woolley, chief executive of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, which runs the BRI and children's hospital, said: "All paediatric cardiac surgery carries with it significant risk and these risks are explained to parents. Despite these risks and the complex needs of the children we care for, we have results among the best in England.
"A comparative outcomes assessment for 2000-2008 undertaken as part of a recent safe and sustainable review showed that the Bristol service has the third best mortality rates when mortality rates are compared between the eleven current surgical centres in England.
Mortality figures for 2007-2010 show that the Bristol centre had a 1.6 per cent mortality rate for surgical procedures in the under one year age group and one per cent in the one to 15 year old age group."
The trust's chief operating officer, James Rimmer, said: "Across the country, there are different service models for how a child's needs are met when they do not require Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU).
"Previously in Bristol, children with cardiac problems who did not require PICU-level care were cared for on the specialist paediatric cardiac ward; if a child had higher needs, the ward nurses, child and their family were supported by the Intensive Care Outreach Team who reviewed, implemented and advised on care; alongside this expert support, the staffing numbers on the ward, for each shift, were enhanced to a level commensurate with the child's needs.
"Following the Care Quality Commission's visit to the specialist cardiac ward in October, the Trust took immediate action to address concerns raised. Two cardiac high dependency beds were established on the paediatric intensive care unit, where cardiac children who require high dependency care are now being looked after.
"We have agreed with local and specialised commissioners to establish a permanent dedicated high dependency unit in ward 32 and we intend to open the unit by April 2013."