Hospital allowed judicial review of 'unfair' closure plan

A leading hospital has won the right to challenge an "unlawful and unfair" plan to close its children's heart surgery unit.


The Royal Brompton argued that a review of the future of centres around the country was just a "rubber-stamping" exercise, as it had already been decided to shut one in London.

In the first case of one NHS body taking another to court, a judge agreed on Friday that the trust should be granted a judicial review of the consultation.

But the victory for the hospital is a blow to the Department of Health's hopes of reorganising children's heart surgery in England – making it safer by concentrating the complex operations in six or seven expert units rather than 11 – as the whole process could be delayed for several months.

Bob Bell, chief executive of the Royal Brompton, said: "This is extremely good news, first and foremost for patients."

"We have always supported the principle that all babies and children who undergo heart surgery deserve the best possible care, but decisions about the future of such vital services have to be made on the basis of sound, objective evidence, and the decision-making process must, of course, be entirely transparent."

"These conditions were not met by those responsible for this review, and it is with regret that we find ourselves having to take legal action to ensure that the grave inadequacies of their approach are heard in a court of law."

Jeremy Glyde, Programme Director for the Safe and Sustainable review of paediatric cardiac surgery, said: "Mr Justice Burnett said that he had concluded 'with some hesitation' that the Royal Brompton Hospital had 'an arguable case'."

"Safe and Sustainable welcomes the opportunity to present its evidence and will do so robustly."

"The rationale for change is supported by medical experts, professional associations and leading national heart charities. Pooling expertise will help the NHS make further improvements to patient outcomes and deliver a truly excellent service."

He added that the timetable remains "on track" with a decision expected in November, as the hospital had failed to halt the entire process.

However the process could be delayed if a judge rules following September's full hearing that the consultation must be restarted.

Source: The Telegraph Martin Beckford
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