Families’ joy at Glenfields u-turn

Paul and Sally Twell from Gosberton Risegate with daughters Ava, Savannah and Edie.
Paul and Sally Twell from Gosberton Risegate with daughters Ava, Savannah and Edie.
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The prospect of child heart surgeries continuing at a world-leading East Midlands hospital has left South Holland families relieved and delighted this week.

A plan to close the children’s heart surgery centre at Glenfields Hospital, Leicester, and two other centres in England has been thrown out by the Government after a damning review of the original recommendation.

Kevin Nightingale with his children Ben, Jonny and Louise.

Kevin Nightingale with his children Ben, Jonny and Louise.

An independent health panel asked by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to examine changes proposed in a report published last July called Safe and Sustainable Review of Children’s Heart Services said the plan to close Glenfields was based on “flawed analysis.”

But the future of the centre, which provides the pioneering ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) treatment to patients, is still uncertain after Mr Hunt ordered NHS bosses to draw up revised plans for child heart surgeries in England by the end of July.

Paul Twell (39), of Gosberton Risegate, who along with his daughter Edie (4) had surgery at Glenfields, said: “It’s fantastic news and we’re delighted that common sense has prevailed in that the Government has finally realised that these specialist hospitals need to be local to people.

“Glenfields Hospital offers a fantastic service and its staff have helped us and so many other families in getting back to perfect health.”

Jonny Nightingale (15), of Millfield Gardens, Crowland, was diagnosed with a heart defect which could have caused sudden adult death syndrome before being offered treatment both at Glenfields and London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital where he was operated on in March 2011.

His dad, Kevin Nightingale (45) said: “We went to Great Ormond Street Hospital because it’s world-renowned but it didn’t matter where we went as long as my son got sorted out.

“We’re very pleased with the Government’s decision because if child heart care units like Glenfields close down, how are other hospitals going to cope?”

An inquiry of child heart surgery centres in England was originally launched by the former Labour Government in 1998 after 35 babies and children were known to have died through failings at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Lawyer Sir Ian Kennedy, who chaired the inquiry panel, recommended that child heart surgeries should be concentrated in a small number of specialist centres and the Safe and Sustainable review’s proposals were made as a result.

But there was outrage when the recommendation to close Glenfields became public in July 2012 and as a result of a 110,000-name online petition, a parliamentary debate took place in October 2012 which led to the recommendation being suspended.

Christer Larsson (32), of Stonegate, Spalding, who backed the petition and whose daughter Sofia (3) had life-saving surgery at Glenfields, said: “I’m very pleased the Government has decided to carry out a proper review, especially given all the things parents were saying.

“Now we know Sofia is going to continue getting the great care she’s had at Glenfields and that’s good news.

“But now there’s another wait to see what the NHS is 
going to do next and we wonder what its plans are going to be now.”