Children’s heart surgery unit ‘is safe’ according to a review

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The children’s heart surgery unit which closed temporarily last year due to fears over a high number of patient deaths, is safe according to a review.

The year-long review by NHS England concluded Leeds General Infirmary’s paediatric heart unit ‘does not have excessive mortality.’

NHS England deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick said: “I am happy to say, on the basis of the evidence that we currently have, that services in Leeds are safe and running well.”

But the review did find that some families had received poor care, and the head of Leeds hospitals has apologised to 16 families.

The report highlighted a “tragic lack of communication, compassion and sometimes basic kindness,” and hospital and NHS bosses pledged action over the concerns, which included mums saying they felt pressurised to have a termination when their unborn babies were diagnosed with heart defects.

Some families whose children died said they were not treated with compassion and felt staff wanted them to leave as quickly as possible.

Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust,said: ”Our heartfelt apologies to the families who reported these experiences.

“Their stories will give us more to learn and more to improve but we also need to say that we treat 10,000 children every year in the unit and perform more than 800 operations.”

Surgery was suspended at the unit for two weeks last March, partly because of concerns over high mortality rates, but an initial review showed this to be inaccurate and the latest review has confirmed this.

Sharon Cheng, director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund charity which supports the unit, said: “While one complaint is too many, the vast majority of families and patients under Leeds’s care tell us on a daily basis what a superb service they receive from Leeds and that they feel the team has gone above and beyond to care for their children.”

Two parts of the review, looking at deaths among patients and concerns from families, were published today. The third and final part, which deals with concerns from other doctors around transfers to different hospitals, is expected to be published late spring.