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Politicians act to protect Royal Brompton’s vital respiratory care and research

28th June 2012
Politicians act to protect Royal Brompton’s vital respiratory care and research

The threat to children’s respiratory care and research at Royal Brompton Hospital is today highlighted by MPs, calling for urgent talks on the issue. With just over a week until a final decision is taken on the future of Royal Brompton’s children’s intensive care unit, health ministers are being asked to meet hospital doctors to hear about the devastating impact of the recommendations.

Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, has laid down an Early Day Motion (EDM) highlighting how the closure of the children’s heart surgery unit at Royal Brompton, as part of a national plan to reduce the number of such units in England, will damage specialist services for children with cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The hospital’s children’s intensive care unit will close as a consequence of the decision to stop heart surgery and specialist care for respiratory patients who need an on-site intensive care unit will also have to stop. In turn, this will mean research programmes will also be adversely affected. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative MP for Kensington and John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, are also supporting the EDM.

Mr Henderson said: “Doctors at Royal Brompton treat babies and children from around the country with some of the most severe forms of cystic fibrosis, asthma, the muscular dystrophies and other respiratory illnesses. But without intensive care and anaesthesia, the complex specialist respiratory treatment for the most poorly children, and the internationally respected research programmes into lung disease, cannot continue.

“Royal Brompton is a national specialist centre. We should be protecting its teams of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and others who have the skills to help children and babies who have the most serious heart and lung conditions. We now have a week until a decision is made on children’s heart surgery – whatever happens we cannot let the expert teams carrying out research into rare respiratory conditions be destroyed as a result.”

The mother of one young patient living with a rare lung disorder who is seen at Royal Brompton, wrote to Mr Henderson about the threat to her son’s care and treatment. The seven-year-old is living with a rare lung disorder that affects just one child in every four million. He relies on regular access to paediatric intensivists and anaesthetists.
International experts have spoken out about Royal Brompton’s respiratory research. President of the European Cystic Fibrosis Association, Professor J Stuart Elborn, said: ‘The quality of the current paediatric research programme at Royal Brompton Hospital is outstanding. It is one of the few centres with sustained internationally competitive programmes in the UK or mainland Europe.”
The decision about Royal Brompton’s intensive care unit will be made on July 4th by a joint committee of primary care trusts at a meeting held in public.

The EDM states: That this House is concerned at the decision by the Safe and Sustainable Review of Children's Heart Surgery to recommend closure of the intensive care unit at Royal Brompton Hospital; believes that the specialist services for children with cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and other respiratory illnesses will be downgraded as a result; calls on Ministers in the Department of Health to meet doctors and other representatives of the hospital to discuss how the decision will impact on current levels of clinical expertise and respiratory research programmes; and fully supports comprehensive consultation with parents of those children affected before any decisions are made. You can read the EDM in full at: 

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