• Paediatrics burns services at Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust have become unsustainable
  • QVH had hoped to move services to Brighton
  • May also move adult services to Brighton

Children who sustain severe burns in Kent, Surrey and Sussex will be treated in Essex or central London from next month, as a specialist unit has temporarily closed.

The Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust in East Grinstead admits a small number of children with burns – 40 in 2018-19 – and the service has now been deemed unsustainable.

It has been operating under a “derogation” for some years – meaning it does not have some of the key colocated services which would normally be expected of an inpatient service for children, such as paediatric intensive care, and which NHS England has said are required. 

NHSE issued specifications for burns services in 2013 which included, for paediatric units, colocated 24/7 high dependency care, an emergency department, trauma unit and paediatric medicine, together with round-the-clock radiology and pathology. Clinicians with appropriate competences in managing children also need to be available 24/7.

In a statement, QVH said: “We are working with the ambulance service to ensure that from 1 August these children [who require a hospital stay] will be assessed at their local acute hospital, as they are now, and then transferred to the specialist burns centres [at Broomfield Hospital] in Chelmsford and in Chelsea [and Westminster Hospital in London].”

Children who only require outpatient services will continue to be treated by QVH at either its East Grinstead site or the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

QVH said it was continuing to investigate options to provide paediatric burns services in Brighton. It had hoped to develop an inpatient unit with the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust’s Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, but, at present, this is not clinically viable.

QVH added that its inpatient adult burns services, which treat around 100 people a year, could also move to Brighton, as part of the major trauma unit. The trust said moving adult and children’s services together could make them more clinically and financially viable and could boost the resilience of the plastics service QVH already provides in Brighton.

However, moving adult burns services is a longer term consideration and could take three to five years.

The QVH is part of the London and South East England Burns Network, which includes burns centres – which take the highest level of complexity of patients – at Broomfield and Chelsea and Westminster, a burns unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and a lower level burns facility at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. All take adults and children, but the Chelsea and Westminster is a burns unit, rather than a centre for children.

The burns unit at QVH is famous for having treated pilots involved in the Battle of Britain. Surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe performed experimental reconstructive plastic surgery on many of the men, who formed the “guinea pig club” to provide mutual support.