• Clinical lead for paediatric cardiac surgery set to leave hospital trust
  • Trust already faces closure of its congenital heart disease services
  • Trust says it will still have necessary surgical cover

A trust whose children’s heart unit faces closure looks set to lose its clinical lead for paediatric cardiac surgery.

Simone Speggiorin, senior surgical consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust, has been offered a new role at Evelina Hospital in London and looks set to leave the trust by the autumn.

The resignation of a senior member of its surgical team will be a blow to the trust, one of three earmarked to lose services part of NHS England’s congenital heart review.

UHL is now seeking a new senior surgeon after reassuring NHS England its surgical cover still meets the NHS standard for CHD services.

However, the trust accepts finding a replacement could be tough while the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre at Glenfield Hospital faces an uncertain future.

In a paper presented to its board, Alison Poole, UHL’s senior manager for special projects, stated: “The loss of a senior surgeon has a risk of destabilising the service further.

“Recruitment for a replacement may be challenging until some certainty surrounding the service can be established.”

UHL say the recruitment of Ikenna Omeje, joining the trust in June from Great Ormond Street Hospital, will maintain the unit’s ability to deliver the standard of three surgeons and 375 cases.

Ms Poole told HSJ UHL would have four surgeons following the arrival of Mr Omeje until Mr Speggiorin left in September or October.

She said finding a replacement would be “a challenge but it is not something insurmountable” after nine candidates applied for its most recent surgical vacancy at the unit.

“There is no problem,” she said. “We have three fantastic surgeons now and another fantastic surgeon joining us. We have a very strong contingency plan which we have shared with NHS England.

“The only thing we need is a little bit of clarity so we can attract the right calibre of surgical person to join the team.”

NHS England says every hospital undertaking CHD surgery will require a team of four surgeons performing at least 125 operations a year by 2021.

If the current proposals go ahead, UHL and Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Trust in London would lose their CHD services with Central Manchester University Hospitals FT losing CHD surgery.

UHL is submitting a detailed growth plan to NHS England by the end of the month and will send its official response to the public consultation, addressing “key themes of contention”, before it ends on 5 June.