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Safe & Sustainable Review

Oxford Young Hearts’ has, over the past few years, taken the lead in responding to the Safe and Sustainable Review, speaking on behalf of our members in public consultation, to politicians and civil servants.

In June an announcement was made by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, of the suspension of the Safe and Sustainable Review of Children’s Heart Surgery. Mr Hunt concluded that The Safe & Sustainable Review was based on a flawed analysis of the impact of incomplete proposals, leaving too many questions about sustainability and implementation.

We welcome this decision. Although it will create some uncertainty about which centres will eventually be designated, we do not think this will undermine the clear case for the joint Oxford / Southampton Network established three years ago in response to the review. We expect Oxford to maintain and expand on its position as a leading children’s cardiac centre as part of this Network.

The Secretary of State was commenting on the report he had received from his specially appointed Independent Reconfiguration Panel, (IRP), following previous recommendations made last July by the NHS Safe and Sustainable Review of children’s congenital heart services, (S&S), to axe children’s congenital heart services in three hospitals.

The S & S recommendations ratified by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts on 4 July 2012 have been severely contested by staff and patients’ groups alike, with many national and local politicians lobbying to save the units.  Young Hearts welcomes the IRP’s criticism of the process used to select which hospitals would continue to provide surgery and the recognition that the decision-making process used by the JCPCT was flawed. We see no reason why, based on the premise that the needs of heart children and their parents are paramount, a model of care system should not be established between The John Radcliffe and Southampton General Hospitals which takes the surgical cardiac services to the patients, rather than making patients travel up to three hours to access care

Representatives from Young Hearts had the opportunity to put their case to the Independent Review Panel when it visited Oxford in February. We set out our proposals for a joint Oxford/Southampton surgical service operating on both sites, pointing out that both hospitals are world-class teaching hospitals with well-equipped modern theatres and in Oxford’s case a modern dedicated Children’s Hospital. Both hospitals have regional standard paediatric intensive care units and Oxford is expanding its facilities to host the largest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the Region.

Three years ago, Oxford and Southampton joined together to create a single service for cardiac children with cardiology services on both sites and surgical services located on the Southampton site. It has operated successfully under a single Network Board made up of senior managers and clinicians from both hospitals. However, we believe this can be improved upon. We see no reason why, based on the premise that the needs of heart children and their parents are paramount, a model of care system should not be established between The John Radcliffe and Southampton General Hospitals which takes the surgical cardiac services to the patients, rather than making patients travel up to three hours to access care.

This model of joint partnership would enable the creation of a joint group, including up to seven surgeons, so increasing flexibility, as both sites already have helipads, by allowing clinical teams to reach either site within fifteen minutes in response to an emergency.

Young Hearts will continue to promote this model of care as part of the next stage of discussions on the future of children’s heart surgery in England.

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