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Consultation launched to ensure excellent care for patients with congenital heart disease

NHS England has today launched a public consultation on how it will put in place new standards for hospitals providing congenital heart disease services in England.

The consultation, which runs for 16 weeks from Thursday 9 February to Monday 5 June 2017, aims to gather as many views as possible from patients, families and clinical experts and will include face to face meetings around the country, webinars and an online survey.

It follows the publication in 2015 of a new set of quality standards for all hospitals providing congenital heart disease.  The standards were developed over a period of two years in conjunction with hundreds of patients and their families, clinical experts from more than 15 hospitals, Royal Colleges and more than 30 charities in response to a number of reviews following the public inquiry at Bristol Royal Infirmary in 2001.  Now NHS England is seeking views and input on how the standards can be put into practice.

To ensure the best outcomes for patients, the standards set out the need for surgeons to do a minimum of 125 cases per year, the equivalent of three per week. They also require that there should be a minimum of three surgeons in the team to cover the workload 24 hours a day, rising to four surgeons per team by April 2021. To make sure critically ill children receive the full range of support, the standards also specify that specialist children’s cardiac services must also only be delivered where there are also a wider range of other paediatric specialities present on the same hospital site.

Professor Huon Gray, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England said:

“It’s our job to organise services so that every adult and child with congenital heart disease in this country gets not just safe or good care, but excellent care. We’ve worked hard with patients and clinical professionals to develop a set of standards to achieve this, and heard clearly throughout this process that this would only be worth something for patients if acted upon.

“NHS England has set out how these standards can be put into practice. No final decisions have been made, and whether or not they are carried out in the way we’ve suggested, is subject to the outcome of public consultation, so we encourage everyone with an interest to get involved.

“We’ve already been working with the hospitals potentially most affected by our proposals to help them to meet the standards, and look forward to hearing as many views as possible during the consultation.”

In a joint statement, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery said:

“We fully support these standards. NHS England must ensure that the standards are applied for the benefit of patients, by ensuring that expertise is concentrated where it is most appropriate. The proposals put forward by NHS England in July 2016 should improve patient outcomes and help address variations in care currently provided.”

All of the documents relating to the consultation can be found at: www.engage.england.nhs.uk

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