Mortality rates for all children’s heart surgery centres in England have been released following the temporary suspension of operations in Leeds.
Surgery at Leeds General Infirmary’s child cardiac unit was halted at the end of last month after NHS England said it had “serious concerns” that data showed the unit had a death rate double that of other centres. It resumed again on Wednesday.
NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said he could not “sit on” data concerning high death rates without doing something about it and insisted the closure had not been a “knee-jerk reaction”.
Data released by NHS England shows that none of the country’s 10 centres breached thresholds for child heart surgery deaths, but Leeds General Infirmary came “very close” to the “alert” threshold.
Two other centres, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, run by Alder Hey Children’s Trust and Evelina Children’s Hospital, part of Guy’s & St Thomas’ Trust also came close to the limit, according to the figures, covering 2009 to 2012.
Commentary accompanying the analysis, compiled by the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research, which oversees NHS mortality data, said: “These findings do not indicate a ‘safety’ problem in any centre.
“However, centres with three-year outcomes approaching the alert threshold may deserve additional scrutiny and monitoring of current performance.”
It is also noted that: “By definition, around half of all units will have more deaths than ‘expected’. It is therefore inappropriate to label centres as ‘blameworthy’ for these deaths, as the analysis does not show a significantly increased mortality rate.”
A spokeswoman for Alder Hey Children’s Trust said: “We are pleased to learn that all children’s heart units in England, including Alder Hey, are safe.
“Alder Hey undertakes rigorous scrutiny of all our outcomes for this service, including an independent review of any deaths that sadly occur, in order to ensure that we have the safest, highest quality service for some of the most vulnerable infants and children in the country.
“We have worked with CCAD and the NHS for many years to support the robust development of this information, and look forward to continuing to do so in the future.”