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NHS England today (Thursday) responded to the publication of the independent review into children’s heart surgery at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and pledged to take action to ensure a consistent level of care is available for every patient in every part of the country.
It announced that next week will see the publication of the commissioning changes across England effective from April 2017 at the latest.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director, commissioned the review in February 2014 following a meeting with families whose children had sadly died at the hospital and who had expressed concerns about the quality of services.
It was led by Eleanor Grey QC, an independent barrister and former Counsel to the Bristol Royal Infirmary public inquiry, which reported in 2001. Acting as a consultant advisor was Sir Ian Kennedy, the former chair of the Inquiry, who was also chair of the Healthcare Commission.
Sir Bruce said: “I was deeply moved by the experiences of the families in Bristol. We wanted to ensure that those families were given a voice and that their concerns were fully investigated. The inquiry has been both independent and thorough.”
“Children’s heart surgery is highly complex and technically demanding and carries with it significant and unavoidable risk. I know the team in Bristol will embrace this report and has already taken action to improve care for patients. The hospital provides critical services and we want it to provide outstanding care in the future.
“Quality is not just about survival it is about many other things. These families’ experiences tell a very powerful story not just for Bristol but for the rest of the NHS in terms of compassion and how we treat people in their darkest moments.”
Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England’s Director of Specialised Commissioning at NHS England, added: “Patients need to know, both now and into the future, that they can count on the quality, resilience and sustainability of services they need at their most difficult times.
“Over the past year we have built, with expert clinicians and patients, a clear consensus on the standards that need to be met to ensure a consistent level of care is available for every patient in every part of the country. We are absolutely committed to ensuring those standards are met and, taking account of the Bristol Report, we will announce shortly the practical steps we are taking to make that happen for patients effective from April 2017 at the latest.
“As one element of this, we will be working closely with Bristol and other centres to support their plans to meet these standards in full.”
After discussions with key stakeholders, NHS England established the New Congenital Heart Disease Review in July 2013. The Review had the following aims:
- Securing the best outcomes for all patients – not just lowest mortality but reduced disability and an improved opportunity for survivors to lead better lives;
- Tackling variation – ensuring that services across the country consistently meet national standards, and are able to offer resilient 24/7 care, and;
- Improving patient experience – including how information is provided to patients and their families, and consideration of access and support for families when they have to be away from home.
In July 2015 NHS England received the review’s report and around 200 new standards and service specifications which providers of CHD services should meet.
In order to establish which providers do or can meet the standards in the set time frame, all providers were asked to complete a self-assessment process, the results of which will be announced next week, together with the specialised commissioning action that NHS England will take to implement them nationwide.