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Top medic hits out at 'foolhardy' NHS plan to axe complex heart procedure at Royal Brompton

Plans to scrap congenital heart disease (CHD) services would lead to other serious repercussion at the internationally renowned hospital, it has been claimed

Medics working at Royal Bromtpn (Pic: Alex Orrow)

Proposals to close congenital heart disease (CHD) services at Royal Brompton Hospital have been branded “foolhardy” by a leading NHS medic.

NHS England announced plans to axe the service at the world famous heart hospital in Chelsea in 2016.

It has now launched its public consultation on the proposals, which opponents say would have a detrimental knock-on effect for the rest of the hospital.

Dr Richard Grocott-Mason, medical director at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As a doctor, I cannot understand how this 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.

“To do this without a sound basis in evidence is nothing short of foolhardy.”

Official figures show that Royal Brompton operates the UK’s largest CHD service, and is among the best patient outcomes in the country.

The Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea

Clinical teams help more than 14,000 patients, treating many from birth through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

It also has exceptionally high patient satisfaction levels and the UK’s CHD services as a whole are already considered to be among the best in the world.

If the plans went ahead, Royal Brompton would be forced to withdraw all CHD services, requiring both child and adult patients to find another hospital to provide their care.

The plans would also dismantle Royal Brompton’s world-leading adult CHD research team and would force the closure of its children’s intensive care unit.

Without intensive care 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.

Dr Grocott-Mason continued: “We have held many meetings with NHS England , and provided evidence showing how we already achieve excellent outcomes for congenital heart disease patients.

“It is therefore regrettable that they have moved ahead with an expensive public consultation without addressing the key issues we and others have raised with them repeatedly over the last few months.”

He says the proposals do not explain how CHD care will improve or how other Royal Brompton services will be impacted

“The damage to our work in genetics and high risk pregnancy and to our inherited cardiac conditions service is similarly ignored,” said Dr Grocott-Mason.

The Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea

He urged patients and medical professionals to make their views known and added: “I hope that NHS England use the consultation to genuinely take note of these views and to develop more sensible plans.

"We know the cost of this unnecessary reconfiguration would run to many millions of pounds and when resources are so stretched it seems impossible to understand why they are being used in this way.”

NHS England plans to withdraw CHD services because it considers the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust not to meet a new standard around "co-location".

This requires certain paediatric services – gastroenterology, nephrology and general surgery – to be permanently "co-located" in the same building as the CHD service.

Royal Brompton Hospital

As Royal Brompton is a specialist heart and lung hospital, these additional services are based at the neighbouring Chelsea & Westminster Hospital .

Staff from both hospitals have worked together for years under a formal Service Level Agreement, with joint rotas, ward rounds, meetings and shared systems, and the trust has a 100% record of ensuring that any patient in need of these additional services receives them at their bedside.

The consultation launched on Thursday (February 9) and will run for 16 weeks until June 5. It can be seen here .

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