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Call for paediatric units to merge with larger specialist facilities

By Lilian Anekwe

Health policy experts have called for England's 11 paediatric heart units to be merged with larger specialist units to improve patient safety and care.

A review by the NHS National Specialised Commissioning Group, launched in 2008 by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, said amalgamation is the key way to improve the safety of paediatric heart units, following controversial lapses in patient safety at paediatric surgical centres in the 1990s.

The report said there should be a minimum of four surgeons at each centre to deal with emergencies and to provide round-the-clock cover.

Under the plans, staff will be required to move to other centres or remain at their units which will focus on diagnostics and non-surgical care.

Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of healthcare think-tank the King's Fund, said: ‘There are a number of areas of medical care where we know if you concentrate services you will get better quality and better patient safety.'

‘That is the fundamental argument behind concentrating services in fewer centres, and children's heart surgery is one very good example of that.'

England's 11 paediatric heart units should be merged with larger specialist centres, the review concluded England's 11 paediatric heart units should be merged with larger specialist centres, the review concluded

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