Later this afternoon, campaigners fighting to save children’s heart services at Glenfield Hospital will staging yet another rally to help force NHS England drop their plans to close our heart unit. The rally, organised by the Save Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre group https://saveglenfieldheartcentre.wordpress.com, will take place in Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, at 1pm.
Speaking to the Leicester Mercury (July 2) campaign chairman Steve Score explained:
“This isn’t done and dusted and we will never give up. There is still time for people to reply to the consultation. We want to make sure this stays in the hearts and minds of everyone because it’s so important.”
The previous month, on June 27, I joined many others in protesting outside the “Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland joint health scrutiny meeting” that was held at City Hall. We then joined the meeting en masse to remind the bosses at NHS England — who were present — that we were never going to let them close our heart unit.
Dr Aidan Bolger, a consultant cardiologist and head of service for the East Midland congenital heart centre, made clear “that of all the centres in the UK we have seen the largest sustained growth over the last eight years…” This is significant, because as he went on to explain, of all the hundreds of standards that NHS England could have chosen they ended up assessing each heart centre on just “fourteen core standards that they determined were the best markers of quality.” He continued:
“We now have agreement with NHS England that of those fourteen we now only seem to be arguing about one of those standards which is the number of operations undertaken – I might argue that this is an activity target rather than a standard. We have submitted very detailed plans to NHS England about how we will reach that activity target, and that was sent to NHS England on 3rd May, and we were very much hoping that would trigger some dialogue between ourselves and NHS England around that growth plan and we are yet to have a date confirmed about when that conversation will start.”
Moreover as Dr Sally Ruane pointed out during the meeting, no research even exists that provides evidence to support NHS England’s arbitrary standard of each heart surgeon having to carry out a minimum of 125 operations per year. City Labour Councillor Ted Cassidy thus asked:
“What is the basis for your decision, if it is not based actually on research – or is it based on research that has been very selective and possibly twisted – what is the reason for it, is it financial or political?”
Rutland County Councillor Gale Waller (Liberal Democrat) added:
“I really think it is about time NHS England realised that their only purpose in life is to look after people, and people are not lists, numbers, or even a balance sheet dare I say.”
Councillor Elly Cutkelvin, who chaired the meeting, stated that NHS England were “defending the indefensible” and was shocked they were still “not answering questions.”
Yes indeed, campaigners continue to be astounded at NHS England’s lack of respect for the public and swrote an angry letter to NHS England to complain about the sham nature of their so-called public consultation (“Save Glenfield: Complain to NHS England over their sham consultation”). Campaigners were particularly upset about the short notice given for the public meeting that was to held at Glenfield Hospital on July 1.
Furthermore, in the wake of this latter meeting NHS England, Richard French, a spokesman for charity Heart Link, recalled:
“None of our questions were really answered. This just seems like a tick-box exercise for NHS England so it can say a consultation took place.” (July 2, Mercury)
It is for this reason and many others that campaigners from across Leicestershire will be rallying in Leicester city centre today. Join us this afternoon and join the ongoing fight to save Glenfield Heart Unit for everyone!
For further details about completing the official consultation documents see here https://saveglenfieldheartcentre.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/a-short-guide-on-how-to-answer-the-online-consultation-on-the-future-of-glenfield-heart-unit/
Dr Aidan Bolger explained that of the hundreds of standards…
“NHS England have self-assessed each [heart] centre on fourteen core standards that they determined were the best markers of quality. We now have agreement with NHS England that of those fourteen we now only seem to be arguing about one of those standards which is the number of operations undertaken – I might argue that this is an activity target rather than a standard. We have submitted very detailed plans to NHS England about how we will reach that activity target, and that was sent to NHS England on 3rd May, and we were very much hoping that would trigger some dialogue between ourselves and NHS England around that growth plan and we are yet to have a date confirmed about when that conversation will start. So in terms of the growth plan, the reason that we are confident about this is because we know that within our natural catchment area — we have defined that as everyone that lives nearer to Glenfield than any other centre by straight line distance – NHS England have done a similar exercise and they have used travel times to our centre, and if you look at both those models each of them demonstrates that at this moment in time over five hundred patients undergo operations of this sort per year, so we are confident that there is the activity within our region is already in order to reach the 375 standard activity target by 2019 and 500 by 2021. So we do agree on that. So we are simply suggesting that with a change in referral practice and the establishment of networked links, we can quite easily increase our activity to the 375 and the 500. I would also point out that of all the centres in the UK we have seen the largest sustained growth over the last eight years in comparison to almost any other centre. So if you compare the three centres that were doing the most operations eight years ago, they are still doing the most operations now but they are not doing any more operations now than they were doing then. If you look at our service, we have grown and grown and grown, and we have demonstrated that over a number of years, and so therefore it is our contention that centres that are growing in that way ought to be allowed to continue to grow, because that is where the patients are, and that is where the services are required. So if you are planning a national series of networks for these services they should be in places like this that are growing and have a large and growing population…”