Oct 31 2012
A hospital at the centre of a row about the streamlining of children's heart surgery units has been forced to restrict the number of children's cardiac operations.
The move comes after the health watchdog found that Bristol Royal Hospital for Children has inadequate staff levels to care for patients on a cardiac ward.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it had given the hospital a formal warning for not having appropriate staff numbers on a ward caring for babies and children with heart problems.
Earlier this year, the hospital was selected to be one of seven specialist institutions to provide paediatric heart services for patients across England and Wales.
NHS officials opted to keep seven units running and decided to close the surgical units at Leeds General Infirmary, Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and the Royal Brompton in Chelsea in west London despite numerous campaigns to keep the units at the hospitals. Officials made the decision after an NHS review concluded that expertise was spread too thinly and should be concentrated in fewer hospitals.
The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care. After the inquiry, it was recommended that paediatric cardiac units should be set a target for the number of operations per year, and surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres to ensure quality of care.
In July, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) of England decided that Bristol would be one of the specialist centres. But the CQC said that, during an unannounced inspection, it found there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet patients' needs on one of the wards at the hospital.
The CQC said it issued a formal warning to University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, following the inspection on September 5. The watchdog said it visited the hospital after the families of two patients raised concerns about care on Ward 32 - a 16-bed unit which cares for children up to the age of 18.
The trust said that, since the warning, the hospital has reduced the number of beds on the ward to 12. It has also decided to reduce its programme of cardiac surgery in line with the new bed capacity.
Robert Woolley, chief executive of the trust, said: "No family should leave the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children believing that we did not provide the best care possible for their child. I am deeply concerned that some families believe that we have let them down and will continue to ensure that we address their concerns and bring forward our plans to develop a high-dependency unit."