Report on high death rates at Leeds Children’s Cardiac Unit is released

March 13, 2014
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A review of the paediatric heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary has concluded that the unit is “safe and running well.” Surgery at the unit was suspended in March 2013 for two weeks after patient death rates appeared high.

The two-pronged review by NHS England examined the unit’s mortality rates and the experience of 16 families who felt let down by the unit. The review found that the unit “does not have an excessive mortality”. However, the review found serious problems with the care offered to the 16 families. One parent told investigators that they were given no support by staff after their daughter died. “We were given a leaflet. Nobody asked how we were getting home in the early hours of the morning.”  Another mother described how she felt pressurised into having an abortion, which was against her Muslim beliefs.

Julian Hartley, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, offered a “heartfelt apology” to the families affected. He said that action had already been taken to improve services, including the appointment of three permanent consultant surgeons, a full review of how complaints are handled and the opening of a new £1.75m children’s intensive care unit. However, Fragile Hearts, a group representing parents who have lost children or seen them suffer medical harm as a result of heart surgery, said its members did not believe the changes introduced at the unit went far enough.  In a statement issued by the group, they said that they wanted systemic changes within the unit, but above all they hope that nobody else ever has to walk in their shoes.

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