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Health Secretary urged to halt 'flawed' plans to close Glenfield heart unit

Published on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

COUNCILLORS from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have expressed their ‘deep concerns’ about the consultation into plans to close the congenital heart disease unit at Glenfield Hospital.

The chairs of the joint health scrutiny committee have written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to highlight their dissatisfaction with the ongoing consultation and call on him to halt the ‘flawed process’.

NHS England is running the consultation on its proposals for the future commissioning of congenital heart disease services, which could see the heart unit at Glenfield Hospital shut down.

The letter to the Health Secretary highlights poor public engagement, a lack of openness and transparency, unreliable professional opinion, reluctance to provide requested information or provide satisfactory answers to questions and other serious failings in an unfair consultation process.

Chair of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Joint Health Scrutiny Committee Cllr Elly Cutkelvin said: “A decision to close Glenfield congenital heart disease unit will have a profound impact on the lives of a large number of vulnerable patients and their families.

“We have deep concerns about NHS England’s consultation which we know are shared by members of the public across the whole of the East Midlands. Despite having members of the public speaking at our meetings the level of openness and transparency from NHS England has fallen well below the standard that people rightly expect from such an important consultation.

“We are raising these concerns directly with the Health Secretary and calling for an immediate halt to this flawed process.”

Despite concerns about the consultation process, the joint health scrutiny committee has now submitted its official response which fiercely opposes NHS England’s plans to close congenital heart disease services at Glenfield Hospital.

The joint health scrutiny committee raises the following points:

  • The service at Glenfield is rated as outstanding and it is nonsensical to close it when it offers such high quality care to patients
  • Removal of the service from Leicester would leave the whole East Midlands region without any congenital heart disease services
  • There is a lack of scientific evidence backing the standards being used by NHS England to assess closures
  • There is inequality in the way these standards are being applied, with some NHS Trusts being favoured over Leicester
  • There is no understanding of how travel times will affect patients and families, as the formula used by NHS England is unrealistic
  • The full impact on families that will have to travel away for treatment has not been considered
  • Patients, parents and carers have not been listened to and the consultation has been poor
  • There is no clear timeline given for the decision and there are concerns about who will make it, as this may lead to conflicts of interest

Committee vice chair Cllr Lee Breckon said: “After a long and drawn-out process, the time has come for common sense to be adopted and the decision to allow Glenfield to continue providing its CHD service to be announced immediately.

“The plan submitted by UHL fully answers NHS England's initial reasons for closure and with the work done and shown in the report, the answer to keep the unit open is clear and logical.

“The irrational decision by NHS England to announce closures is without justification. It shows a total disrespect for the hospital staff, the patients and their families and also to the people of the East Midlands and beyond who rely on this service and provision being available."

The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland joint health scrutiny committee has also warned that unless NHS England reconsiders its proposals, the matter will be formally referred to the Secretary of State. This would be in accordance with Regulation 30 of the Local Authority (Public Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013.

Cllr Elly Cutkelvin added: “This has been a flawed consultation into a nonsensical proposal that will have devastating impact on vulnerable families and very poorly children. The committee will do everything in its power to ensure NHS England drops its ill-considered plan to close vital congenital heart services at Glenfield Hospital.”

NHS England’s consultation about proposals for congenital heart disease services is due to run until 17 July.