Decision expected on children's heart surgery
HEALTH experts were due to decide today whether children's heart surgery will continue in Bristol.
An independent committee was expected to confirm that the number of specialist units across the country would be reduced.
Bristol Children's Hospital was included on all four options for the future put to the joint committee of primary care trusts. But the government says that the committee is not restricted to these possibilities.
Hospital bosses insisted they already met the requirements of the Safe and Sustainable review, which began following recommendations from the Bristol Heart Inquiry, published in 2001, into the deaths of about 30 babies following operations in the city during the 1980s and 90s.
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It was proposed that to make heart surgery safer it should be carried out at fewer, larger specialist centres.
The final decision was due to be taken at a public meeting in London this afternoon.
The review has already been subject to a drawn-out legal challenge, with a court ruling earlier this year that the consultation carried out was legal.
Ministers have repeatedly said the decision is not theirs to make, stressing the independence of the committee.
Yesterday Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Post there would be scope for appeals against the decision, which would delay the process by at least two months.
He said: "Whatever decision they make, if it leads to a major service change, the local authorities in that area can examine it, and if they decide they have substantive objections they can refer it to me, and I have a panel that will look at it."
While the number of surgical teams is to be reduced, the number of units providing other children's heart care was not expected to be cut, he said.
Deborah Lee, director of strategic development at University Hospitals Bristol health trust, said she "fully supported" the Safe and Sustainable review.
She said: "We recognise the need to reconfigure children's heart surgery.
"It is essential to concentrate clinical expertise in the right number of centres to meet the national caseload."