Have your say on North East congenital heart disease services

People across the North East are being urged to have their say on assessments that could impact on congenital heart disease (CHD) services for children. 

Two public meetings will be held in the region next week as part of NHS England’s national congenital heart disease consultation.

NHS England commissions providers to deliver CHD services and those providers are required to meet 238 standards. Last year existing providers were assessed against the standards and that assessment proposes that The Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) should continue to be commissioned as a level one CHD centre.

Andy Welch, the Trust’s Medical Director, said: “We are proud of the high standard of CHD services that we provide to children who travel from across the country to be cared for in Newcastle.  So we welcome NHS England’s assessment of our CHD services as having a “unique, strategic position in the North East in delivering care for CHD patients with advance heart failure” and we would encourage families who have benefited from those services to make their views known through the consultation.” 

NUTH meets the vast majority of the 238 standards that were developed to ensure children have the same high quality care for CHD wherever they live in the country. It does not currently meet the following three standards:

  •  Having four surgeons
  • All four surgeons carrying out 125 CHD operations a year
  • Co-location of CHD services with general paediatric services.

Andy Welch added: “We expect to be able to appoint a fourth surgeon by the 2021 deadline, but while our three current surgeons are meeting the target of 125 operations a year, due to the demand for CHD services in the region we are likely to narrowly miss the standard for four surgeons.

“The biggest challenge for us will be the co-location of services, but we believe achieving the standards is the right thing to do to ensure the future quality of CHD services right across the country.”

The Trust is already looking at options for co-locating CHD and general paediatric services but any proposal for change would be subject to a separate programme of consultation. Currently the Trust’s CHD services are based at The Freeman Hospital alongside transplant and adult cardiac services, while paediatric services are based at the Great North Children’s Hospital.

NHS England’s consultation document on the assessment states: “Newcastle has a unique role in delivering care for CHD patients with advanced heart failure including heart transplant and bridge to transplant and this could not be replaced in the short term without a negative effect on patients. On balance therefore our present view is that it is better to continue to commission level 1 CHD services from Newcastle. CHD surgery and the transplant programme involve the same surgeons so the two are tied up together.” 

NHS England is running a consultation process on its assessment of services currently providing CHD services. The consultation will close on 17 July 2017 and NUTH hopes that staff, patients and families will take the opportunity to share their views on the assessment and what it could mean for local services. 

NHS England is holding a series of public meetings across the country seeking views on the assessments, and in the North East parents and staff are invited to attend the following meetings:

· 27 June         Newcastle Civic Centre                              6.30 – 8.30pm

· 28 June         St. Mary’s Centre, Middlesbrough             6.30 – 8.30pm

Information about the consultation and other ways to share views on the assessments are available at www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/chd

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