Oxford joins Southampton in children's heart surgery network

Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust has formed a strategic partnership with the children’s heart surgery centre in Southampton, which has been rated as providing the country’s highest quality service outside London.

The partnership with Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust has increased the number of operations being carried out and puts Southampton within easy reach of the new requirements being introduced for centres that perform children’s heart surgery in England.

The national Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart surgery services recommends that children’s heart surgery should only be provided in a smaller number of larger centres to achieve the best outcomes for children.

Since the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford suspended children’s heart surgery in February last year, the majority of children needing heart operations and other invasive cardiology procedures have been going to Southampton for treatment.

This arrangement has worked well for Oxford’s patients and has increased the number of patients being treated in the Southampton centre, which needs to be performing at least 400 operations every year to meet the requirements to be one of new larger centres.

An independent report by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy ranked Southampton as the highest quality centre outside London and described its service as exemplary in three key areas. Despite this, the review has decided to ask the public later this month to consider whether Southampton should remain open in the future.

In a four month period of public consultation, four options will be presented and the public, patients and staff will be asked which centres they think should remain open.  One of the options includes Southampton. Oxford is not included in any option because the Safe and Sustainable review team felt that, as one of the smallest centres in the country, it had the least chance of achieving the new standards being set.

Southampton and Oxford are working together in a clinical network to create a comprehensive and high quality service for children with heart disease in the South of England, whilst ensuring that families in all areas have access to excellent local care.

The Safe and Sustainable review has focused on cardiac surgery, but surgery is only one part of a life-long journey of care for patients who come under the cardiac teams. Both hospitals consider it important that patients have access to the other aspects of their care – like outpatients appointments – as close to home as possible.

Mark Hackett, chief executive of Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust, said:

“The results we have achieved in Southampton over the last 40 years speak for themselves and we are delighted that the Kennedy report has supported the confidence our patients and families have always had in the high quality of our service.

“However, we remain concerned that the review has not yet guaranteed the future of the country’s leading centre outside London, and it is now important that the public supports us during this period of consultation.

“The Southampton-Oxford clinical network demonstrates that our organisations have already understood and acted on the principles of Safe and Sustainable in this area. ”

Sir Jonathan Michael, chief executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“A partnership between Oxford and Southampton will ensure that children and families in the areas we serve receive the best treatment available. We believe that it is in the best interests of patients that services are preserved as locally as possible and it is important to remember that surgery is only one part of the treatment of children who often have complex needs.

“The networking arrangement that is working so successfully with Southampton is an innovative opportunity to provide excellent care in a way that fulfils the aims of the Safe and Sustainable review while preserving the wishes of many families that they access the majority of the care for their children as close to home as possible.”

Posted on Wednesday 16 February 2011