Apology over failures in care of children at Leeds heart unit

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THE head of Leeds hospitals has apologised to 16 families whose children received “unacceptable” care at the city’s Children’s Heart Surgery Unit.

A long-awaited report commissioned after the controversial suspension of surgery at the unit last year found a “tragic lack of communication, compassion and sometimes basic kindness”, according to an NHS director.

Leeds General Infirmary

Leeds General Infirmary

Hospital and NHS bosses pledged action over the concerns, which included mothers saying they felt pressurised to have a termination when their unborn babies were diagnosed with heart defects.

Some families whose children died said they were not treated with compassion and felt staff wanted them to leave as quickly as possible.

Dr Mike Bewick, deputy medical director at NHS England, said: “At the moment of the death of their child, parents have felt abandoned.

“That can’t be right at what is probably the most devastating and vulnerable point of their lives.”

The NHS England report came after the temporary halting of operations at the Leeds General Infirmary unit a year ago. A swiftly-conducted review concluded that surgery was safe to resume a few weeks later and a second phase of the review was started.

Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Our heartfelt apologies to the families who reported these experiences.”

Meanwhile the review also confirmed that death rates are no higher than at other hospitals.

An investigation into 35 deaths between 2009 and 2013 concluded that care and treatment was “in line with standard practice” and the service provided by the unit was safe.