More than 200 medical professionals around the world have written to the Secretary of State for Health warning of "devastating consequences" if NHS England’s plans to stop congenital heart disease (CHD) services at Royal Brompton Hospital go ahead.
The letter to Jeremy Hunt, which warns of the "detrimental impact on heart and lung disease care in the UK and beyond", is signed by leading cardiologists, paediatricians, professors and other medical experts from some of the most well-known healthcare organisations in the world including.
It follows NHS proposals to axe the service in a move which has previously been branded “ foolhardy ”.
The letter has 216 signatures across more than 30 countries, and from world famous institutions including Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Boston Children’s Hospital, German Heart Centre, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
In the letter, they claim “it is difficult to identify where any patient benefit would be realised” in NHS England’s plans, with “costs totalling tens of millions of pounds”.
They continue: “The Trust’s adult CHD research team is independently-rated as the most influential in the world.
"By any measure, this is an excellent service, in an area of healthcare in which the UK as a whole already excels.”
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 it 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 letter argues: “None of these devastating consequences are in any way addressed in NHS England’s public consultation documents.
"Nor is there any cost-benefit analysis indicating the improvements in patient outcomes that can be expected or the investment required.
"This renders the consultation entirely unfit for purpose.”
Dr Richard Grocott-Mason, medical director at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are extremely grateful that our specialist heart and lung services have received such strong support from the leading professionals in their field, all over the world.
"Many doctors I have spoken to are completely incredulous about NHS England’s plans and, like us, fail to see how they are in the best interests of patients.”
The contentious proposal has seen demonstrations on the streets and MPs unite across the political divide .
A public consultation on the plans ran from February 9 to July 17.
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