What’s happening about the service for adults with congenital heart conditions?
The service has collapsed at Manchester. Our main surgeon, our interventionist, and one of our cardiologists, and a nurse have moved on as part of their career development. Other members of the team are ill which leaves just 3 specialist nurses and a busy cardiologist/hospital manager.
Can’t we just advertise for more people?
That’s the plan…… but first you need to know more about what else is going on.
The national review of congenital cardiac services
This isn’t about saving money – honestly. It is an NHS review that is looking to improve standards across the country. The standards have been agreed with surgeons, cardiologists, nurses, and patient groups. It says that each surgeon should do 125 ops per year and work in a team of 4 so they can cover for each other and learn together – and work in the same place.
Manchester doesn’t meet that standard – not quite enough operations, and one surgeon on his own. Alder Hey has 3 surgeons. That makes 4 – but not in the same place. You can’t operate on adults in Alder Hey as their beds aren’t long enough so we need a different plan.
NHS England have promised that there will be an adult congenital heart service SOMEWHERE in the North West. We are not losing our service – it’s just a short term problem until the team can be rebuilt.
The consultation has suggested that adult surgery moves to Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital – quite near Alder Hey. The NHS is listening to what people think about that option – as well as other suggestions about other places in the country. The consultation period closes on 17th July. Then there is a VERY LONG period where everything is considered before a decision is made in February 2018.
The Liverpool option doesn’t solve everything – if only the world were so simple – and there would be lots of pieces of jigsaw that would need to fit together to make it work so NHS England have been exploring all sorts of options to make sure we do have a world class service here in the NW.
So, what’s happening to patients in the mean time?
No adult surgery or complex interventions can take place in the North West at the moment. Leeds and Newcastle are specialist ACHD centres, and they have kindly offered to help. However, this means patients will have to travel long distance to have their routine operations – a long way away from supportive family and friends. People who need an inpatient stay for other reasons may also have to go to Leeds or Newcastle.
Many outpatient appointments have been cancelled recently. Sheffield have offered to send a cardiologist to run some specialist PHT clinics and there is have been suggestions that the other centres could come and help, but this won’t cover the number of clinics that would usually run, so people who need an urgent appointment will need to travel across the country.
Many patients think – and the Children’s Heart Association agree – that this situation needs to improve quickly. We are worried that patient’s health will deteriorate silently without those regular check-ups. We are worried that delay in getting an ill patient to Leeds or Newcastle might be harmful. We are worried that the interim plans won’t work, and angry that the plans haven’t been circulated to everyone properly. GPs, A&Es and patients need to know exactly what to do if someone becomes unwell or breaks a leg for example.
Just checking – what’s happening about the kid’s team?
The children’s CHD service is running as normal, except that they might choose to hold onto our teenagers for a while longer until the new adult team is at full strength.
I’m cared for at Liverpool/Wrexham/Blackpool. Will anything change?
Manchester send their cardiologists to do outpatient clinics at these hospitals, and there are Liverpool paediatric consultants who also do some adult work. Many appointments have been postponed due to reduced availability.
I’m worried that I’ve not seen a doctor for a long time. What should I do?
If you feel unwell contact MRI specialist nurses who will triage you and decide the best plan for you. Manchester Royal have promised to put plans in place to cover whatever you need.
I don’t have a car. How would I get to Leeds or Newcastle?
If you have difficulty in getting to an appointment, or if travel is difficult for you and your carers to go for an operation, then Manchester Royal Infirmary will help you to arrange transport and accommodation where needed. Additional “reasonable” expenses will be paid for, but this will be arranged for each person individually.
We can’t wait until next year for a decision?
Absolutely! The specialist nurses are already overworked so the extra work and worry is not sustainable for another year.
Waiting until February might mean that it could take until Summer 18 until the team was back at full strength. MRI are now advertising for “Network” jobs for nurses and doctors saying that the posts might be in Manchester or Liverpool depending on the decision. We are more likely to recruit when a nurse or doctor knows in which city to start house hunting.
We have created a petition to ask Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary to allow NHS England to speed up the decision for the North West so we can rebuild a team more quickly. Other areas of the country are facing the closure of their departments. We are grateful that we aren’t fighting that battle as our situation is much simpler. We just need a decision quickly so the adverts can go out to build a world class team here in the North West ……. somewhere! And we really don’t mind where as long as our remaining team can keep/transfer their jobs.
What can I do to help?
Please sign our petition to ask for a faster decision:
Please also give your views to the national review – quickly as it closes on 17th July
Could you contact your MP or local press with the story about how you have been affected by these changes?