Skip to main content

Children's Heart Services

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

I have received representations about the review of children’s heart services via letters, parliamentary questions and e-mails from hon. Members, via letters and e-mails from organisations and the public, and via meetings. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has received two overview scrutiny committee referrals, one from the Yorkshire and Humber joint health and overview scrutiny committee and one from the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Is the Secretary of State confident that the committee has properly balanced the clinical decisions with the practical transport issues faced by families of children with heart problems?

The assurance I can give the hon. Gentleman is that we certainly believe so, but these are matters for the joint committee of primary care trusts, which carried out this review. As he will appreciate, it is totally independent from the Department of Health, and rightly so.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the concerns in Yorkshire about the review. Can he confirm to us, for the sake of absolute clarity, with whom this decision will lie finally?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend; this is the hors d’oeuvre before the main meal later today. Ultimately, if any overview and scrutiny committees of relevant local authorities do not agree with the final decisions, they have a right to write to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asking him to refer the matter, with their concerns, to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. If it is asked to look into the matter, it will then come to a conclusion, of which it will inform my right hon. Friend and he will then take a decision.

The Scottish Government have decided that although the Yorkhill unit is currently unsafe, it can be made safe in the context of three surgeons doing 300 operations, whereas the “Safe and Sustainable” review, which is increasingly discredited, is demanding 400 to 500 operations. Why is it one rule for children in Scotland and another for children in Yorkshire?

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the decisions that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Health Department might take with regard to Glasgow is a matter for them. The fact is that we recognise what is commonly accepted among the international community: that the safest way of providing that surgery is by carrying out about 400 operations a year.