• NUTH will recruit more surgeons and co-locate services at the Great North Children’s Hospital
  • Changes follow NHS England congenital heart services review last year
  • The changes will require a “major” estate and service review

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust has announced plans to reconfigure its children’s heart surgery services in order to meet NHS England standards and futureproof its service.

Under the plans, the trust has said it will recruit extra staff to meet surgical standards set by NHS England and move its paediatric heart surgery services from the Freeman Hospital to the Great North Children’s Hospital, bringing paediatric services together on one site.

The remainder of the trust’s cardiothoracic services will shift to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

This work will require a major review of the trust’s estate and wider service configuration.

As part of the region’s STP capital bids the likely cost will be more than £41m but the project has been put as the last prirority over other schemes. 

The hospital’s congenital heart disease service was under threat as part of a national review by NHS England, but in November last year NHS England said it could continue to provide level one services until 2021.

The trust was granted exceptions by NHS England for two standards – having a minimum of four surgeons carrying out 125 procedures a year and paediatric services needing to be co-located with other services.

Under the plans announced by the trust, which is only one of two NHS trusts providing children’s heart transplant surgery in the UK, it will be able to meet the standards set by NHS England to deliver services beyond 2021.

Under a three phase programme the trust will start to recruit surgeons before co-locating services at the children’s hospital followed by moving the rest of its cardiothoracic services to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

NUTH chief executive Dame Jackie Daniel said: “Work has already begun to recruit extra staff and we are liaising closely with NHSE on options for funding the co-location of services. Moving the rest of the cardiothoracic services will require a major review of our services and estate that has not yet begun.

“Moving any NHS service can be costly, disruptive and time consuming, but at the heart of any decision to move must be the safety and best interests of all of our patients.”

She added: “NHSE believes the standards they have set for paediatric CHD services will ensure safe, high quality care. We know that our services already deliver excellent outcomes for our patients and in looking to the future we want to ensure that we can continue to provide such outstanding care for the people who need it – and that’s why the board has given its support to this major programme.”

She said staff and patients would be involved in shaping the plans and what future services will look like.