ALL HEART transplants due to be carried out at Harefield Hospital in the next month will have to be cleared with the health watchdog after a rise in the number of post-op deaths.
The Healthcare Commission today (Thursday) confirmed it working with the National Specialised Commissioning team (NSC) to review transplant services at Harefield Hospital, in Hill End Road, Harefield.
It follows a report from the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust which runs the hospital and noted a small increase in mortality rates over the summer.
Of the 15 transplants carried out so far since January there have been four deaths recorded within 30 days of the procedure taking place and all occurred consecutively.
A further two deaths were recorded within the 30-90 day time frame and one more after the 90 day limit, however it was the four within the 30 days which triggered the trust's internal investigation.
This led to the NSC being notified and it contacted the Healthcare Commission with all three parties agreeing an external review should take place.
An independent surgeon and cardiologist have been brought in to review the care of the patients who have died and to consider any common factors in their deaths.
They will report to the Commission and the NSC in a month's time who will then decide if any further action is necessary.
In 2007, 24 heart transplant operations were performed at Harefield, with no deaths reported within 30 days of operation.
Professor Timothy Evans, Medical Director at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS 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: "We must remember heart transplantation is extremely high-risk surgery carried out on very ill patients. Nonetheless, there are a range of measures that can be put in place to mitigate that risk and we want to make sure these are in place.
"The trust did the right thing in bringing the increase in mortality rates to our attention. It's now important that the review is thorough and swift,
in order to give reassurance to those people who are on the waiting list for a heart transplant at Harefield Hospital."
Any organs which become 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 all patients currently waiting for a heart transplant at Harefield about the review. Patients or relatives with any concerns about the transplant service are advised to contact the transplant coordinators on 01895 823 737, bleep 6275, or the transplant senior nurse/modern matron on bleep 6303.