Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shake-Up to Double Freeman Heart Staff; Ops Could Rise to 500 a Year as Unit Grows

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shake-Up to Double Freeman Heart Staff; Ops Could Rise to 500 a Year as Unit Grows

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae

THE number of cardiologists at the North East's children's heart unit will double when the national shake-up of services is implemented.

As reported in The Journal yesterday, children's heart surgery will continue at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital after a decision was made to keep the life-saving service.

A NHS clinically-led review into the streamlining of paediatric heart surgery services in England concluded that child heart surgery should be stopped at three of the 10 hospitals that perform the procedures.

Hospitals in Leeds, Leicester, and the Royal Brompton in London are to stop carrying out child heart operations, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts ruled after an eight hour meeting.

As a result, children using Leeds General Infirmary will now have the option of travelling to Newcastle for heart surgery.

To cope with the increase in demand, the number of cardiologists at the Freeman hospital's children's heart unit will double to eight, and the number of cardiac surgeons will increase from three to four. The number of nursing staff is also expected to rise.

Dr John O'Sullivan, consultant paediatric and adult congenital cardiologist at the Freeman, said: "We are very pleased and relieved at the announcement.

"There will be an increase in the number of patients using the service and, therefore, the amount of surgical procedures we will carry out will increase. "There will be a 100% increase in the number of cardiologists who will work at the children's heart unit and the number of cardiac surgeons will also rise.

"The run up to the decision was a very difficult time for staff and we couldn't make any definitive plans for the future, as we didn't know what was happening.

"It is a very exciting time and those at the unit relish the change. Staff have been involved year-on-year in embracing and developing services and will continue to do so. …

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