Local child heart patients all to be Liverpool-bound

Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool
Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool

Wigan children in need of heart surgery will no longer undergo it in Manchester after a shake-up of services.

As of April Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool looks to be the sole provider of such specialist care in the area as the number of hospitals in England allowed to perform cardiac operations on youngsters is cut in a controversial move.

NHS England has published what it hopes will be the final decision on the matter after previous reviews led to some NHS trusts launching legal action.

Bosses say Manchester’s services, although safe, do not meet new required standards.

It is not clear how many borough patients would be affected by the move.

Certainly many local children with heart problems already attend the Liverpool centre.

The plans cover units performing both adult and children’s congenital heart surgery (CHD), and those providing cardiac specialist care for CHD. Around 80 per cent of the CHD work undertaken at these units relates to children.

Under the plans, 13 level 1 centres that perform surgery will be cut to 10, and nine level 2 specialist cardiac centres of which the nearest to Wigan to cease cardiac services are Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and the University Hospital of South Manchester, will be cut to four.

Level 1 units set to lose services include Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

All units providing adult and children’s congenital heart surgery in England were assessed against new standards to work out if they were providing good care.

They were all found to be providing safe care - with death rates within acceptable limits - but NHS England said some saw too few cases to maintain standards.

Some evidence suggests surgeons should see 125 patients per surgeon per year to ensure surgeons remain competent and highly skilled.

Officials at NHS England believe that while units in England are safe, not all are providing excellent care.

A statement read: “NHS England will work with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital to safely transfer CHD surgery from Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which does not meet the standards and is assessed as not being able to within the foreseeable future.”

It is hoped that by centralising services, outcomes for patients will continue to improve, with more patients surviving and those children born with congenital heart defects living longer into adulthood.