Heart op child deaths rise at Bristol Children's Hospital
DEATH rates among children who have undergone heart surgery at a Bristol hospital have gone up, The Post has learned.
Since April five children have died following cardiac operations at Bristol Children's Hospital, according to figures released after a Freedom of Information request by The Post.
In the 12 months before that, eight children died following 355 procedures, giving a mortality rate of 2.25 per cent – up from 1.4 per cent the previous year.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, stressed that the figures they released had not been validated by the Central Cardiac Audit database. They said the latest validated data showed a mortality rate of 1.6 per cent in infants and 1 per cent in children of between one and 15 years old.
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The data was released on the day that a report by health regulator the Care Quality Commission found that the ward where children stay before and after heart surgery did not have enough staff to meet the complex needs of patients who needed high dependency care after operations. The report said staff shortages had had a "major impact" on patients.
Inspectors were told by medical staff on ward 32 that "checks sometimes do not get done", that "observations are reduced" and that "because of the overstretched nature of ward 32 there is a lack of time to communicate properly with parents". Between January and August, staff on the ward had reported incidents including "medication errors, failure of equipment and low and unsafe staffing levels", the report said.
Staff had also reported concerns about unsafe staffing levels ten times in seven months, the CQC found.
Its report said: "We found that ward 32 admitted children from the paediatric intensive care unit who were in need of high dependency care. We observed during our visit that this was not reflected in the actual staffing level. Ward 32 was staffed as a paediatric general ward and not as high dependency care."
Inspectors were also told that the trust "recognised the risks associated with the lack of dedicated high dependency beds on ward 32".
The unannounced inspection of the hospital on September 5 came after complaints by the families of children who died following heart surgery.
Seven-year-old Luke Jenkins, of Cardiff, died in April after he had been moved to ward 32 following planned cardiac surgery. His death came just a month after four-year-old Sean Turner's. Both had undergone the same procedure and their parents each raised concerns about their sons being moved from the paediatric intensive care unit to the ward.
Luke's dad, Stephen, told The Post yesterday: "Somebody needs to be responsible for what has happened at the hospital. They cannot suddenly say 'we knew but we didn't fix it', they have only acted now because the CQC wrote to them."
In response to the concerns in the report the hospital trust has reduced the number of heart operations it is carrying out until it has set up a dedicated high dependency unit.
Cardiac operations are currently carried out four days a week at the hospital and the move will mean that on one of those days, there will only be one procedure, either planned or emergency.
Chief executive Robert Woolley said: "I was very disappointed by the CQC's findings following its inspection of one of our wards in the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, the paediatric cardiac ward.
"No family should leave the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children believing that we did not provide the best care possible for their child. I am deeply concerned that some families believe that we have let them down and will continue to ensure that we address their concerns and bring forward our plans to develop a high dependency unit."
In July, Bristol Children's Hospital was named as a designated cardiac surgery unit following a review that came out of the baby heart scandal of the 80s and 90s, when a public inquiry found up to 35 babies had died needlessly at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
When The Post contacted the people behind the Safe and Sustainable review they said a member of the team had attended a meeting with the CQC and NHS representatives and concluded that "the trust's actions in response to the CQC's concerns are appropriate" and they would be working with the hospital.