Review of children's heart operations to reopen
A CONTROVERSIAL review of children's cardiac surgery will be reopened, ministers have confirmed.
Proposed reforms, aimed at stopping surgery at some hospitals in order to concentrate expertise in a smaller number of specialist centres, followed recommendations from the inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, when up to 35 youngsters died as a result of poor care.
The Safe and Sustainable review was eventually published in July, and recommended that heart surgery be maintained at Bristol Children's Hospital, as well as at Southampton, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and London. This meant the closure of three other units, triggering huge protests.
Bristol's heart surgery unit was not seen as under threat in the review, as it was included in all four options put forward for consultation.
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But now the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered a "full review" of the process.
It follows referrals from some of the councils whose local hospitals faced losing heart surgery, calling for a rethink.
The review will now be reconsidered by an independent panel.
The Department of Health said there were "common themes" in the councils' complaints, which the panel had decided "merit further consideration".
A spokeswoman said: "Following this, the Secretary of State has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to conduct a full review of the proposals for change under the Safe and Sustainable review of congenital heart services. As part of this, the IRP will consider the implications on other services."
Separately, campaign group Save Our Surgery said it had filed for a judicial review against the decision to close a heart unit in Leeds.
The decision also comes as Bristol Children's Hospital faces complaints over the standard of post-operative care and calls from bereaved parents for surgery to be suspended while a probe into recent deaths is carried out.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the children's hospital, said it was too early to comment on the rethink.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Hunt told MPs: "It's going to be a totally impartial review, it's going to be a very thorough review."