A SUDDEN rise in the number of deaths following heart transplant surgery at Harefield Hospital has led to the launch of an external review of services by the health watchdog.
The Healthcare Commission confirmed last Thursday it is working with the National Specialised Commissioning (NSC) team to review transplant services at the hospital, in Hill End Road.
It follows a report from the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust which runs the hospital and noted that of 15 transplants carried out since January, there have been four consecutive deaths within 30 days of the procedure taking place.
A further two deaths were recorded within the 30-90 days time frame and one more after the 90-day limit.
An independent surgeon and cardiologist have been brought in to review the care of the patients who died, and any common factors. They will report in a month's time, when further action will be considered.
In 2007, 24 heart transplant operations were performed at Harefield, with no deaths reported within 30 days.
Professor Timothy Evans, Medical Director at the trust, said: "Heart transplantation is an incredibly complex field of medicine and a high-risk procedure.
"We are keen to be informed by the conclusions of the review and we will work hard to implement any recommendations which might emerge."
Nigel Ellis, head of investigations at the Commission, said: "The Trust did the right thing in bringing the increase in mortality rates to our attention. It's now important the review is thorough and swift, in order to give reassurance to those people who are on the waiting list."
Any organs becoming available for transplant while the review is being carried out will have to be cleared with the independent experts before any surgery can take place.
The Trust has informed patients waiting for heart transplants at Harefield about the review. Patients or relatives with any concerns about the transplant service can contact the coordinators on 01895 823 737, bleep 6275, or the transplant senior nurse/modern matron on bleep 6303.