Solicitor: "Recent cases at Bristol Children's Hospital echo original heart baby scandal"
THE solicitor representing the families of young patients who died at Bristol Children's Hospital believes recent cases have echoes of the original heart baby scandal.
Laurence Vick represented the families of babies and young children who died or suffered brain damage following heart surgery in the city in the 80s and 90s. He is now representing ten families whose children died or suffered long-term damage after issues with care while patients at Bristol Children's and St Michael's hospitals between 2008 and 2012.
The trust has said that latest official figures, from 2007 to 2010, show that the Bristol centre has a 1.6 per cent mortality rate for cardiac surgical procedures in the under one year age group and 1 per cent in the one to 15 year old age group.
There are ten cases being taken against University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHBristol), which runs both hospitals, including seven where children died.
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As previously reported in The Post four-year-old Sean Turner died of a brain haemorrhage last March, six weeks after a heart operation at the city centre hospital. His parents, Yolanda and Stephen, believe their son would not have died if he had received appropriate care after surgery. Luke Jenkins, seven, died just weeks after Sean, having undergone the same Fontan procedure at the city centre hospital to correct a heart defect. UHBristol admitted to failings in care on ward 32 at Bristol Children's Hospital, where both Luke and Sean were recovering after surgery, in reports into their deaths.
Mr Vick, of Michelmores who is representing nine of the ten families, said that parents should be made aware if a hospital has a "poor record" with a particular procedure, such as the Fontan, before they give consent for surgery.
"There are echoes of the old cases where parents were not given accurate information about the record of the unit in these particular cardiac procedures," Mr Vick said.
"When parents met with the surgeons and the risks were explained to them, to give full, valid consent to surgery I think they should be made aware if a unit has a poor record in a particular procedure. In the case of Sean Turner and Luke Jenkins it was the Fontan procedure. If a unit has problems in that procedure and has a series of previous incidents there is an argument that the parents should be told about that.
"It is an argument that echoes the older cases in that had parents been informed of the problems at Bristol they would have opted for their children to be operated on in other units."
Mr Vick has written to the panel reviewing plans for fewer heart surgery centres in England, which was recommended following the original heart scandal.
A spokeswoman for UHBristol said: "Fontan is the third part of a planned procedure. From nationally benchmarked outcome data, gathered over a number of years (CCAD), there is no evidence to suggest that Fontan procedures should not have been taking place at the children's hospital."
She added: "We are not aware of any issues regarding consent at the children's hospital. A specific parental consent process is rigorously followed in all cases where a child undergoes an operation."