Jubilant families and heart patients in South Holland are celebrating victory after a near seven-year fight to keep their nearest specialist medical centre open.
Petitions, protests and fundraising to protect the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (EMCHC) at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester has paid off, now NHS England has announced its threat to move services to Birmingham have been shelved.
In April 2011, the Spalding Guardian first revealed NHS England’s plan to “decommission” or cut the number of hospitals in England where children’s heart surgeries would take place from 11 to just six.
Faye Sharman (29), formerly of Queens Road, Spalding, whose son Ollie Turner (11) had three major heart operations at Glenfield, said: “I was so pleased to hear the news that Glenfield Hospital is staying open, because the care from the doctors and nurses is amazing.
“They didn’t just care and fix my little man, they also supported, cared and kept me going so I could care for Ollie.
“Their parent rooms and facilities are brilliant, the team cared for Ollie while I was sent home for a rest by the nurses so I could stay strong myself and I thank God for that hospital every day.
“I couldn’t have done what I could for Ollie if he was at another hospital. The next closest to us is in Birmingham, where I wouldn’t have been able to have the support from friends and family visiting.
“The closure of Glenfield Hospital’s EMCHC would have been a great mistake.”
Clinical and business leaders at Glenfield were able to convince NHS England that it was able to carry out three operations a week, according to new standards for heart treatment nationally.
John Adler, Chief Executive of Glenfield Hospital, said: “We are obviously delighted with the decision to continue commissioning EMCHC as a Level 1 congenital heart disease centre.
It’s been a long, hard battle to make the NHS hierarchy see what an amazing and life-changing service Glenfield Hospital gives to so many people but I’m very proud to have been part of the efforts made for the EMCHCTilly Milverton, estate agency manager in Spalding
“The decision is a vote of confidence for our staff and service, as well as great news for our NHS partners across the East Midlands.
“The future is now in our hands and this decision means that the clinical team can now focus on building a world-class congenital heart service for people across the East Midlands and beyond.”
Aidan Bolger, Head of Service at the EMCHC, said: “I am delighted by the decision made by the NHS England board as it puts an end to years of uncertainty.
“It is also testament to the professionalism, energy and determination of all the EMCHC staff that have fought to ensure our service delivers the highest quality of care to meet the required standards.”
“Patients in the East Midlands can now be assured that they have access to a congenital heart disease centre of excellence, as close to home as possible, and we can continue to offer our internationally renowned ECMO and mobile ECMO service to the whole of the UK.”
Glenfield Hospital is renowned for its ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenator) which delivers oxygen to a patient’s blood system.
The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used for open heart surgery. Extra corporeal means ‘outside the body’, and a membrane oxygenator is a piece of equipment which delivers oxygen into your child’s blood.
First developed in the USA 40 years ago, Glenfield is one of only three national centres currently providing cardiorespiratory ECMO support for babies and children in England and Wales, the others being at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
Professor Huon Gray, national clinical director for Heart Disease at NHS England said: “Every patient should be confident that their care is delivered by a hospital that meets quality standards that have been developed after long consultation with patients, their families and specialist clinical staff.
“These standards, agreed in 2015, are intended to ensure that the care received by those with congenital heart disease is consistent, of the highest quality, and maintained in future years.
“These objectives have always been at the forefront of our proposals and we know that Glenfield Hospital has gone to great lengths to develop plans to meet the standard.
“However, we have been clear that there is further work to do and where necessary, action must be taken to achieve this within the specified timescales.”
Spalding estate agency manager Tilly Milverton (22), who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (an abnormally fast heart rate of more than 140 beats a minute) five years ago, raised £2,000 last year for a charity supporting Glenfield Hospital.
Tilly said: “When I heard that NHS England’s plans had been revised, it filled me with much joy and relief.
“It’s been a long, hard battle to make the NHS hierarchy see what an amazing and life-changing service Glenfield Hospital gives to so many people.
“I am very proud to have been part of the efforts made by so many hard-working individuals who campaigned day and night for the EMCHC.
“However, it still seems unbelievable that it took so much to make the people above make the right decision.”
John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, said: “I’ve been a strong supporter of this campaign right from the outset and I’ve written about it many times because it’s vitally important to have health services that are accessible to local people.
“Congratulations to Glenfield Hospital and its staff, campaigners and, most of all, those patients with heart diseases and their families who have fought to retain congenital heart services at the hospital.
“I’m delighted, I support and very much welcome the fact that the services at Glenfield Hospital will continue so that families in my constituency will have access to the skill and dedication of its staff.”