Trust commits to major programme to secure congenital heart disease services

Newcastle Hospitals is to invest in new staff and moving services across the city to safeguard the future of paediatric congenital heart disease (CHD) services.

There has been uncertainty about the future of these services for a number of years as NHS England (NHSE) carried out a national exercise to determine the future configuration of paediatric CHD services.

This concluded in November 2017 with NHSE announcing that The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NuTH) could continue to provide level one CHD services until at least 2021.

NHSE wants all providers of CHD services to meet a number of national standards and the Trust was found to not meet two of the standards:

  • Having a minimum of four surgeons each carrying out at least 125 surgical procedures a year to a total of 500 per annum by 2021, and
  • Paediatric CHD services to be co-located with paediatric surgery and nephrology services by April 2019.

Newcastle Hospitals’ paediatric CHD services are currently based at the Freeman Hospital with all of the Trust’s other CHD services while other paediatric surgery services are based at the Great North Children’s Hospital.

The Trust is only one of two NHS organisations that provide children’s heart transplant surgery in the UK, and the only one in the country to offer transplant surgery to both adults and children with congenital heart disease.

In recognition of this unique position NHSE allowed the organisation some exceptions to the standards, while it gave further consideration to the future commissioning of the Trust's advanced heart failure and transplant services, and its level one CHD services.

These exceptions were that Newcastle Hospitals:

  • Be required to develop and deliver a plan to increase surgical activity so that it has a team of at least three surgeons, each undertaking at least 125 operations per year from 2019/20.
  • Will not be required to meet the 2019 deadline for full co-location for paediatric cardiac services, but will be required to meet these standards if NHS England confirms a plan to commission level one CHD services beyond March 2021.

Dame Jackie Daniel, Trust Chief Executive, said: “We know we provide outstanding care to patients who need our CHD services, and we provide a unique range of services to adults and children with congenital heart disease. We are committed to safeguarding the future of those services in Newcastle, and our Board has given its whole-hearted support to a wide ranging programme that will ensure we achieve all the standards determined by NHSE.”

The Trust’s Board of Directors agreed a three phase programme:

  • Phase 1 – recruit extra staff to meet the surgical activity standard and help to support the move to phase 2.
  • Phase 2 - Co-locate paediatric services with with paediatric surgery and nephrology services Great North Children’s Hospital
  • Phase 3 - move the remainder of the Trust’s cardiothoracic services to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Dame Jackie added: “Work has already begun to recruit extra staff and we are liaising closely with NHSE on options for funding the co-location of services. Moving the rest of the cardiothoracic services will require a major review of our services and estate that has not yet begun.

“Moving any NHS service can be costly, disruptive and time-consuming, but at the heart of any decision to move must be the safety and best interests of all of our patients.

“NHSE believes that the standards they have set for paediatric CHD services will ensure safe, high quality care. We know that our services already deliver excellent outcomes for our patients and in looking to the future we want to ensure that we can continue to provide such outstanding care for the people who need it – and that’s why the Board has given its support to this major programme.

“Any changes to services will be a major undertaking for the Trust - and not just those services in our cardiothoracic directorate - but we will make every effort to ensure that staff and patients affected by the proposed moves are actively involved in shaping what the future will look like.”


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