Chairman wants answers

The chairman of Lincolnshire's Health Scrutiny Committee has written to NHS England, to raise concerns about the consultation over the potential changes to the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (formerly known as Glenfield) in Leicester - the nearest specialist heart hospital for Sleaford area patients.

On July 8 last year, NHS England announced that “subject to consultation with relevant trusts and, if appropriate the wider public” it was intending to decommission congenital heart disease surgery (“Level 1 services”) from the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre.

The consultation was due to begin in December but was delayed until January, and no date has yet been given by NHS England.

Following a presentation from Will Huxter, Regional Director of Specialised Commissioning at NHS England, at the last meeting of the committee on December 21, the committee raised many concerns over the proposals and asked for further information and data.

Chairman of the committee, Coun Christine Talbot, said: “The committee have been following this issue since 2012, and I am concerned that until we get more information from NHS England, the timing of the consultation may mean we will not be able to take a full and active part in the consultation because of the restrictions around local government elections that begin at the end of March.

“We have been informed that Will Huxter is unavailable to attend the Health Scrutiny meeting on January 18, but has offered to attend in March instead. This could only give the committee a matter of days to respond to the consultation.

“We do not believe NHS England have thought through the full implications of stopping these services for very sick children and babies in Lincolnshire and across the East Midlands.”

On January 18, the committee will consider any new information from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and any subsequent information received from NHS England, in relation to the questions raised by the Health Scrutiny Committee.

The committee have asked for the following from NHS England:

* In the context of the overall capacity for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) surgery across the country, the committee would like confirmation of the present and future capacity at Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital, as CHD patients were currently being treated at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) as Birmingham Children’s Hospital did not have the capacity.

* The committee would like details on the members of the NHS England panel, who determined the standards, following the public consultation in 2014.

* The committee requested information on the number of surgical procedures undertaken by each surgeon at each centre, whether as private surgeons, or as NHS surgeons, so that all operations undertaken could be taken into account to meet the standard relating to 125 operations per annum, averaged over three years.

* The committee would like information on whether there would be any impact on the CHD services provided at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a result of Birmingham City Council’s Children’s Services Department retaining an ‘inadequate’ rating.