Congenital Heart Disease

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th June 2014.

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Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey 11:30 am, 10th June 2014

What the planned timetable is for his Department’s congenital heart disease review.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The review is being undertaken by NHS England, which has been engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, of whom my hon. Friend is one. He is a doughty champion for his city, and for these services. I understand that NHS England will consult on draft service standards later this year, but will not do so in July as was previously expected. All information relating to the review can be found on the organisation’s website, which is updated fortnightly. I spoke to officials yesterday in order to update myself, and I know they will post another update very soon, if not today.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Conservative, Pudsey

According to the mortality case section of the Secretary of State’s review of the closure of services at Leeds, many of the recommendations could apply more widely to other units throughout the NHS. Given that no other unit has received anything like as much scrutiny as Leeds, will my hon. Friend ensure that any continuing audits take place in the other units as well, so that standards can be maximised?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

That is a very good point. This Government and this Secretary of State have championed transparency more generally, because we all believe that it is essential to our ability to build on the success of the health service and maximise its service to patients.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne East

Am I right in understanding that the Minister has just announced a further delay? The key recommendation to the Government on children’s heart surgery, which was made in 2001, was that fewer units should be centres of excellence, because that was in the best interests of patients. Now, 13 years later, none of that has actually happened. Do the Government still accept the premise that fewer units should be centres of excellence, and will the Minister tell us what accounts for the delay?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s frustration, but the review is very important. NHS England has confirmed that it will not be able to consult quite as early as it had wished, but it should be appreciated that this review is more comprehensive than the last one. For example, NHS England has developed a comprehensive set of commissioning standards which have never existed before. For the first time, the whole patient pathway will be covered, from foetal detection through childhood, into adult services and all the way to palliative care—on which one of my hon. Friends led a debate relatively recently—and bereavement.

It is always frustrating when things do not happen according to schedule, but what really matters is getting this right and being as transparent as possible. The level of engagement with stakeholders has been much more satisfactory than before, and we continue to make progress.