Top medic Sir Roger Boyle believes heart surgery should remain in the North East

Former national ‘heart tsar’ Sir Roger Boyle believes children’s heart surgery should remain at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital

The Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle
The Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle

A leading medic has said he believes an initial proposal to keep children’s heart surgery in the North East would be the correct decision for youngsters.

Former national ‘heart tsar’ Sir Roger Boyle suggested that children’s heart surgery should remain at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Five years ago, NHS Safe and Sustainable conducted a detailed review into the future of children’s cardiac surgery after experts insisted there is a need to streamline services into fewer, more specialised units.

It was recommended that the Freeman Hospital should continue to provide children’s heart surgery and Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in London should cease to do so.

Yet that ruling was overturned when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered for NHS officials to re-evaluate the decision.

Yesterday Sir Roger Boyle, who was head of the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research, told Radio 4 he believed the initial proposal should remain, but suggested it may not.

He said: “The original plan was that the Leeds unit should move to Newcastle, that the Leicester unit should move to Birmingham and that there should be only two centres in London, rather than three.

“That would be my continued advice, because having sat through all the very lengthy and meticulous debates about how we might come up with the best solution, I was convinced that was the right solution. But I don’t see there is very much chance of that happening.”

Sir Roger insisted there had been an “overwhelming consensus” in about 2006 that the NHS needed fewer, larger child surgical centres that could provide a “comprehensive and safe service”.

He added: “That principle I think is still adhered to by many, but it looks as if the establishment has turned their face against it.”

Sir Roger’s statements come on the back of a report into paediatric cardiology at Leeds General Infirmary which showed that mortality rates are safe, however, it was highlighted that some families of very ill children received poor care.

Last night, Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said he was confident that children’s heart surgery will remain in the region as the Freeman has “a world class unit.”

In June it was announced NHS England would lead the new Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) review to ensure services for both adults and children with CHD are provided in a way that achieves the highest possible quality. Findings of the review will be released later this year.

Dr Mike Bewick, Deputy Medical Director at NHS England, said: “As part of our national review of congenital heart surgery, we are developing a new set of national standards that providers will have to meet.”

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