Parents start battle to save children's heart surgery

The Oxford Times: Kim Homewood and Jude Kelly Kim Homewood and Jude Kelly

PARENTS of children who have undergone heart surgery at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital were last night gearing up to save the service.

Yesterday it was confirmed the hospital had failed in its bid to become one of the country’s centres of excellence for paediatric heart surgery.

And now campaigners fear operations, which have been suspended since March after an investigation into the deaths of four babies, will end for good.

The Government wants fewer, but larger, paediatric units carrying out more operations – at the moment there are 11, of which Oxford is the smallest.

Maria Crocker, from Berinsfield, said she would do everything in her power to ensure the hospital unit, which saved her eight year old son David’s life, stays open.

David has a life-threatening problem with his aortic valves and needs repeated surgery.

Mrs Crocker, 34, said: “I will march to Number 10 and knock on David Cameron’s door and demand that he listens to us, if that is what it takes.

“I’m amazed they can announce this decision before any public consultation.

“David knows and trusts the team at Oxford. If Oxford closes for good, he, and our whole family, will be devastated.”

The JR was told it had received the lowest ranking of all 11 centres by ‘a significant margin’ following the Government review.

It has recommended the hospital is not one of the centres considered when the review moves into public consultation in January.

Last night the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals (ORH) Trust was unable to say how many jobs would be lost if child heart surgery did not resume at the John Radcliffe.

Jude Kelly, chairman of Oxfordshire charity Young Hearts, said the group was gearing up to lobby against the decision, and invited members to attend the organisation’s AGM on Tuesday.

Mrs Kelly, who lives in Abingdon, credits surgeons at the JR with saving the life of her two-year- old daughter Eilish, who suffered heart failure last year.

She said: “We find this decision shocking and upsetting. We are preparing to challenge the decision and call on parents who support the JR to get in touch.”

Kim Homewood, founder of the charity, added: “We absolutely do not accept this decision and will be lobbying it all the way.”

But the Children’s Heart Federation (CHF), which represents 21 organisations supporting young people with heart defects, said it was happy with the decision.

Spokesman Cecilia Yardley said: “It appears from close inspection of the Oxford unit that working practices and equipment were out of date and fell well behind best practice elsewhere.

“A small surgical team, one or sometimes two surgeons, is not sufficiently large to cope every day, all year round, with planned and emergency surgery and give the surgeon enough time away from the unit to stay refreshed and up to date with the latest techniques.“ Last night the ORH declined to comment.

The Young Hearts AGM will be held at the Oxford Four Pillars Hotel, in Abingdon Road, on Tuesday, at 7.30pm.

Comments (2)

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4:12pm Sat 16 Oct 10

GrumpyRobot says...

I hope Kim Homewood and Jude Kelly will reconsider their plan to campaign to re-open the JR's paediatric heart unit. The problem with small units like this is that the chance of things going wrong is much higher. Please read Dr Phil Hammond's column in Private Eye - he has been making the case for having fewer but larger units ever since the Bristol hospital scandal in the late 1990s. Keeping a local unit open for sentimental reasons or convenience is short-sighted. In the end, it is giving each child who needs heart surgery the very best chance of life that matters.
I hope Kim Homewood and Jude Kelly will reconsider their plan to campaign to re-open the JR's paediatric heart unit. The problem with small units like this is that the chance of things going wrong is much higher. Please read Dr Phil Hammond's column in Private Eye - he has been making the case for having fewer but larger units ever since the Bristol hospital scandal in the late 1990s. Keeping a local unit open for sentimental reasons or convenience is short-sighted. In the end, it is giving each child who needs heart surgery the very best chance of life that matters. GrumpyRobot

5:29pm Sun 17 Oct 10

Peeter Mcvey says...

As long as they pay for it they can do as they like. But if they want public money to support them goodbye.
As long as they pay for it they can do as they like. But if they want public money to support them goodbye. Peeter Mcvey

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