• Leicester trust launches staunch defence of heart unit facing closure
  • Consultation over proposals to close three units ends next week
  • NHS England says it wants patient care “to be as good as it can possibly be”

NHS England has been accused of lacking transparency and using “inaccurate or misleading” data in its planning for the potential closure of three heart surgery units.

University Hospitals of Leicester Trust has said it has not received information it requested from NHS England over plans to stop congenital heart disease surgery at Leicester, Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Trust, and Central Manchester University Hospitals FT.

In its draft response to NHS England, the trust said: “UHL has requested on numerous occasions that the raw data used by NHS England to model its proposals and impact should be shared.

“This has not been released despite it also being requested at the public consultation meeting.”

The trust also claims the proposals were non-compliant with the recommendations that led to the overturning of the Safe and Sustainable review in 2013. It says the data used to show the impact of the changes was four years out of date and “currently inaccurate or misleading”.

NHS England will end consultation on Monday and an independent company will analyse responses before a final decision is taken.

Under the plans, “level one” centres would carry out complex surgery at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital FT and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital FT; Birmingham Children’s Hospital FT and University Hospitals Birmingham FT; Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children FT and Barts Health Trust; Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT; Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Newcastle Hospitals FT; University Hospitals Bristol FT; and University Hospital Southampton FT.

Surgery and interventional cardiology for adults would cease at Central Manchester, which does not perform children’s surgery.

Leicester and the Royal Brompton and Harefield would stop surgery and interventional cardiology for children and adults.

However, Leicester said it has not been treated “with equity” compared to Newcastle, which is likely to retain CHD services despite not meeting two standards, because of its paediatric transplant work.

Calling for “the same degree of intelligent flexibility” to be applied to Leicester, the trust said it carried out 50 per cent of England’s ECMO heart and lung support services and “results are materially better than any other centre”.

It warned closing East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre would worsen nursing shortages as some cardiac paediatric intensive care nurses say they would not move to other centres.

“It is misguided to suppose that centres can be closed without making this problem worse, especially at a time when the funding challenges and Brexit are coming together to restrict the supply of nurses,” the draft response said.

More than 350 surgical patients would be forced to travel to other centres, the trust said, and it “seriously challenged” suggestions that children faced an increased journey time of 14 minutes to Birmingham while adults faced an extra 32 minutes.

A Q&A document said NHS England could not share the model used to calculate travel times because of confidentiality and information governance.

It also said NHS England was assured ECMO and paediatric intensive care could be provided at other centres and expects redundancies would be “minimal” if the proposals go ahead.

NHS England told HSJ it would be inappropriate to comment on the trust’s response during ongoing consultation.

A spokesman said: “We all want to ensure that patients’ care is as good as it can possibly be – that’s why these standards for CHD services were developed and why they were widely supported by clinicians and patients alike.”