Staff at Royal Brompton challenged NHS bosses over plans to decommission congenital heart disease (CHD) services from the hospital during a heated consultation event.
A panel from NHS England faced questions from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals at the staff consultation on Friday March 31.
According to the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, the NHS failed to provide evidence to support the plans to axe the service.
Royal Brompton, in Sydney Street, Chelsea, is home to the largest CHD service in the country with more than 12,500 patients, but NHS England announced plans to decommission in 2016.
NHS England says hospitals providing the services must have certain other children’s services on the same site - known as co-locating.
Royal Brompton does not meet this criteria but works in partnership with neighbouring Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to provide these services.
If successful, the NHS England plan would also dismantle Royal Brompton’s world-leading adult CHD research team and force the closure of its children’s intensive care unit.
As a result the Trust’s paediatric cystic fibrosis and difficult asthma services, both of which are the largest service of their kind in the UK, would also have to close.
The NHS panel consisted of Will Huxter, regional director for specialised commissioning, and Sue Sawyer, regional programme of care manager for internal medicine.
They claimed the proposals had the backing of clinicians but were unable to arrange for a single doctor to attend the meeting and defend the proposals.
As well as grilling the pair, hospital staff also expressed anger at the official consultation document, saying it did not provide evidence on how their proposals would improve care for patients.
It also failed to explain the risks involved in transferring people’s care to other providers, any detail of the impact for the Trust’s paediatric respiratory patients, or on protecting influential CHD research.
Commenting on the meeting, medical director Dr Richard Grocott-Mason said: “The lack of clinical representation from NHS England was very telling.
“Time and time again we’ve been told that their plans have clinical support, yet they could not arrange for a single medical representative to come and speak directly to our staff.
“It’s extremely disappointing – this was the main consultation event for the teams at Royal Brompton who would be directly affected by these proposals, and over a hundred clinical staff gave up their valuable time to take part in discussions.
“NHS England has identified staffing as one of the main risks in their proposals, yet they did not come prepared for a full conversation.
“As a doctor, I cannot understand how NHS England’s plan would result in patients receiving better care.
“It makes no sense to try and improve care by closing one of the biggest, well-performing services, or by destroying research teams that are leading the way in finding new treatments for the future.”
In March thousands of protesters took the streets near the hospital to protest (see video above) at the NHS England plans.
MPs have also signed a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling on him to halt the plans.
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