Calls for Bristol Children's Hospital to suspend operations
PARENTS whose children died after heart surgery at Bristol Children's Hospital are calling for similar operations to be suspended while an investigation is underway.
But managers have insisted there is not a "major problem" at the hospital, which they say has some of the best results in England.
The call comes after the trust in charge of the hospital revealed it was reviewing the last 50 child heart deaths, in a report ordered in response to concerns raised by the parents of Cardiff seven-year-old Luke Jenkins, who died in April after a planned corrective cardiac operation.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the children's hospital, said the review would probably look back about four years.
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Regulator the Care Quality Commission has also confirmed that it inspected the hospital last month and is about to publish a report.
Luke's father, Stephen Jenkins, said: "In other hospitals where children died, such as Oxford, they stopped surgery. They need to stop surgery in Bristol and put some proper plans in place, not just fob people off saying things are fine."
Mr Jenkins, 31, said that he was disappointed hospital managers had referred to his son as a sick child when responding to his concerns.
"Luke was playing on the morning of the operation and went to Bristol Zoo the day before – it was not like he was an emergency case," he said.
Four-year-old Sean Turner, of Warminster, died of a brain haemorrhage in March after a planned operation to correct a heart defect.
His parents, Yolanda and Stephen, believe he would not have died if he had received appropriate care after surgery.
Mrs Turner said Sean was moved from intensive care at the children's hospital to ward 32, a recovery ward, after just a day. She said she was told he would be cared for in a high dependency bed but since complaining about the care of her son the trust had confirmed it does not have a high dependency unit at the hospital.
"I think cardiac surgery should be suspended while they investigate what after-care problems that they have there," Mrs Turner said.
A solicitor who represented the families of youngsters who died during the original Bristol heart scandal said the latest complaints had "echoes of that grim past".
Laurence Vick, of law firm Michelmores, is still dealing with four cases of babies who suffered brain damage following surgery in Bristol between 1984 and 1995, when up to 35 babies died unnecessarily because of sub-standard care.
"These problems are not a one-off – these families know that their incidents were not a one-off and they were the seventh and eighth serious incidents on the ward just this year," Mr Vick said. "Until these problems are ironed out and it is known what the problems are I think there is an argument for suspending surgery."
UHBristol spokeswoman Laura Treasure said: "We do not believe this is a major problem at the hospital. We have some of the best outcomes in England. All paediatric cardiac surgery carries with it significant risk, including Fontan (the operation Luke Jenkins underwent). These risks would have been fully explained to the parents, including that these are very complex procedures on very sick children.
"Bristol Children's Hospital's published mortality rate for children is one per cent and, as such, is amongst the best in England."
Ms Treasure said the decision to check the 50 most recent paediatric cardiac deaths would not only relate to those involving surgery.
"Very few of these 50 cases would relate to infants and children undergoing cardiac surgery," she said.