People urged to have a say on plans for children's heart surgery in south

Patients, parents and members of the public will be given a chance to find out more about plans for the future of children’s heart surgery services in England at an event in Southampton on Thursday (13 November).

It is one of a series of briefings being held by NHS England during a new public consultation on draft standards and service specifications for congenital heart services following a national review.

The paediatric cardiac service at Southampton Children’s Hospital, which works in partnership with Oxford in a clinical network, is one of ten specialist surgical centres in the country and cares for more than 10,000 patients from across the South of England and further afield.

Babies and children are initially referred to the children’s congenital cardiac service before moving through a transitional clinic and into adult care.

The NHS England consultation forms part of a long-running review that initially recommended the creation of fewer, larger centres but, following its conclusion in 2012, no changes were implemented as the plans were suspended in Parliament in favour of a further assessment which incorporates adult services.

During the original review process, an expert panel led by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy rated Southampton as the second-highest performing children’s heart surgery centre in England.

More recently, the latest National Congenital Heart Disease Audit Report, which analysed survival rates at all children’s heart surgery centres in the UK from 2010 to 2013, showed children in Southampton have a better chance of survival following surgery.

Of the ten centres in England – and four additional units in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and a private hospital – Southampton was the seventh-largest by number of operations with 914 and had the best survival rate at 98.5%.  

In addition, staff are set to open a new £500,000 young adult cardiac unit at Southampton General Hospital funded by charity Wessex Heartbeat’s High 5 Appeal. 

On completion next month, it will become the UK’s first dedicated facility for adults with congenital heart disease located directly next to a children’s unit with access to all on-site specialist services and clinicians. 

Mr Nicola Viola, a consultant congenital cardiac surgeon, said: “We remain extremely grateful for the support given to our clinicians, department and patients by so many people during the initial NHS review and consultation.

“The service has continued to grow and develop since then and, as we can see from the latest surgical outcome data, it stands firmly among the best performing centres in the country and across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

“But the process is still not complete and the future remains unclear, so we would encourage as many people as possible with an interest in our service to show their support and attend the event or submit responses through the hospital or NHS England websites.”

The exhibition-style event, which will take place at Southampton Solent University from 2pm to 7pm, will include panel displays, audio-visual materials and an opportunity to talk to review team members.

Anyone interested in participating can register for the event or submit a response via www.uhs.nhs.uk/heartevent. For further information on the review and consultation, contact NHS England on 0113 8248232 or email england.congenitalheart@nhs.net

Posted on Monday 10 November 2014