Today (Saturday) Dan Taylor (36) will take his sons Harvey (15) and Oliver (4) into Holbeach town centre on a mission to safeguard the future of a lifesaving hospital.
In their hands will be a petition, hopefully to be signed by shoppers at Holbeach’s weekend market on Boston Road South car park and in High Street, calling on thne Government to overrule a recommendation by NHS England for Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital to lose its East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (EMCHC).
Just two months ago, Oliver had vital surgery at Glenfield when a bad cough at the age of two turned out to be a hole in the heart and muscle growth stopping blood flowing to his lungs.
Dan, who lives with his family in Holbeach, said: “Without Glenfield, we would have had to travel a lot further which could have been worse for Oliver.
“Even though his heart condition wasn’t life-threatening at the point of his surgery, it might have become so had there not have been any provision for heart treatment in the East Midlands.
“The people there are so caring and if anyone else’s family members or friends need Glenfield’s support, they couldn’t ask for a better service.
“Our country couldn’t do without Glenfield Hospital and Lincolnshire can’t do with it either.”
Over the last four years alone, the Spalding Guardian and our sister newspaper, the Lincolnshire Free Press, have spoken to seven families who can thank staff at Glenfield Hospital for their help in prolonging the lives of both adults and children.
Ben Richards (38), of Moulton Chapel, was so grateful to Glenfield after having surgery there in 2010 for a rare heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White ayndrome (which causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time) that he did a triathlon in 2014 to raise money for heart charity KeeptheBeat.
Speaking ahead of his gruelling 1500 metres swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run in London, which raised more than £200 for KeeptheBeat, Ben said: “The staff at Glenfield Hospital were brilliant and, basically, without them I wouldn’t be here today.
The staff at Glenfield Hospital were brilliant and, basically, without them I wouldn’t be here todayBen Richards of Moulton Chapel
“At one stage, my heart rate shot up to 210 beats a minute and I felt really ill.”
“Now I want to raise money for Glenfield Hospital to say thank you and also to give something back as well.”
Unfortunately for Ben, Dan and other families like them, Glenfield’s EMCHC has been put on a hitlist for closure after an NHS England assessment decided the hospital was unable, and unlikely in future, to meet its new “commissioning standards” for congenital heart disease (CHD) services.
Such conditions, which are generally present from birth, affect up to nine in every 1,000 babies in the UK and include holes in the heart, narrowing of the body’s main blood artery (aorta) and where the valve controlling blood flow from the heart to the lungs is narrower than normal.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, NHS England’s director of specialised commissioning and deputy national medical director, said: “Patients, families and staff need to be assured of sustainable, high-quality services now and into the future.
“There has been a great deal of uncertainty over the future of congenital heart disease services over the past fifteen years.
“We owe it to patients, families and staff to end that uncertainty, and to provide clear direction for the safety and quality of this specialist area of medicine going forward.
“A great deal of work has gone into achieving consensus across the board on the standards that providers should meet and we are determined to take all actions necessary to ensure that those standards are met so that patients get the high-quality and safe services that they expect and deserve.”
Glenfield’s future as a CHD service centre first came into question in 2010 when 11 paediatric heart surgery centres in England were the subject of a review, despite a £93 million investment into heart treatment facilities by the then Labour Government, announced seven years earlier.
Plans to close the EMCHC weere announced in July 2012, only to be dropped due to “a flawed analysis of the impact of incomplete proposals” and their failure to win “the confidence of the public”, according to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
But the axe hangs over Glenfield’s heart hub again and, as a result, more then 22,500 people have signed an online petition arguing that NHS England should reverse its decision about Glenfield Hospital’s congenital heart services.
The petition states: “NHS England has announced that it plans not to commission the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (EMCHC) at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester from next year.
“This decision appears to be based on its opinion that the centre is unlikely to be able to deliver the target number of operations set for a specialist centre.
“This is despite the centre treating more patients than ever in the last year, and despite major investment in increasing its capacity to facilitate reaching the target.
“NHS England could resolve the numbers issue by simply moving those patients from Northamptoshire who are currently sent to Southampton for surgery to Leicester.
“EMCHC delivers a quality of care, and clinical outcomes, which are amongst the best in the country.
“The centre carried out over 330 procedures last year and we therefore ask the Government to overrule NHS England, ensuring it continues to fund EMCHC for the benefit of patients, both current and prospective users of this unit.”