A mum has backed calls to keep a specialist children’s heart unit which is threatened with closure open, after surgeons there saved her daughter’s life.
Rhian Archer, from New England, Peterborough was just seven when she suffered heart problems, and had to be taken to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester for crucial surgery.
Mum Vera was told Rhian had a form of Supraventricular tachycardia - a condition which meant she could have a heart attack at any point.
Now 29-year-old Rhian is preparing for her wedding day - and Vera (61) is backing a campaign to keep the under threat hospital, which is used by other Peterborough families as well as those across the east of the country, open.
She said: “The doctors helped Rhian enormously when she had her heart problems. They really did everything they could for her.
“Rhian was a normal seven year-old girl, when she kept saying she was not feeling well.
“The doctors said there was nothing wrong, but as a parent , you know.
“She went for an ECG in the end, and that said nothing was wrong, but we asked for a second opinion, and she was diagnosed at Glenfield. The staff knew something was wrong. “Rhian was one of the youngest to suffer from it, and they wanted to do a case study.”
Rhian needed surgery to stop her heart beat racing, and Vera said the staff at the hospital had helped look after the family.
She said: “It was the most frightening experience. We never knew when she would be coming in or coming out of hospital. It was very difficult to see what they were doing to your child.
“But the staff are amazing. They become almost like your friends and family - you are on first name terms with them.
“There are places for parents to stay at the hospital, so we could get away and have a few moments quiet. We made so many friends there - one of Rhian’s bridesmaids was met there - , and the work they do at the hospital is incredible.
“I don’t understand why they want to close the hospital down. I don’t know how people come up with these ideas. “The nearest hospitals for us would be Birmingham, Great Ormond Street in London or in Bristol.
“When we think about what could have happened without the treatment she had there - it is so scary.”
A campaign has been started to try and keep the hospital open.
Following the announcement Councillor Ernie White, chair of Leicestershire’s health and wellbeing board and cabinet member for health, said: “This is the wrong decision, for the children and families who need these services. Glenfield’s unit provides an excellent service and has united support from the local community, politicians and NHS officials.
“Closing the unit is not justified at all. The work UHL (the hospitals trust) has been doing has been exactly in line with what the NHS required.
“I will be urgently seeking further information so I can fully understand the implications, on Glenfield and the wider NHS. We cannot afford to lose such a valued unit.”
In a letter to John Alder, chief executive of University Hospital Leicester, Will Huxter Regional Director of Specialised Commissioning (London Region) confirmed the plans to close.
The letter said: “You will be aware that NHS England has been assessing CHD services against the new standards approved by our board in July 2015 and which came into effect in April this year.
We are grateful for all the hard work of your staff in helping us to complete that assessment. Details of the process are shown in appendix 1.
We have now completed our assessment and I am writing to you to report our assessment of your organisation’s compliance with the standards and the action that we are minded to take as a result.
Following our assessment we consider that your organisation does not meet all the April 2016 requirements and is unlikely to be able to do so.
As a result of this assessment we are minded to cease commissioning level 1 CHD services from your organisation.
I am enclosing a copy of our assessment for your review and comment. You will have until close of play 5 July to respond with any comments you may have on the factual accuracy of our assessment. We will then consider your response and confirm our final assessment with you, at which time we will set out our proposed next steps. Our regional team will contact you shortly to confirm these arrangements.
In the event that our assessment remains that your organisation does not meet all the April 2016 requirements and is unlikely to be able to do so we expect to initiate a service change process. There will be appropriate further local engagement before that service change process reaches a final decision on the future of services at your hospital.
We are taking these steps because we believe that they are in the best interests of patients with congenital heart disease and their families, including those yet to be diagnosed who will need these services in future. We believe that by ensuring that all patients across the country are able to benefit from services that meet agreed national standards, the quality of care they receive will be improved. We hope that you will support us in these aims and that you will work with us in the interests of patients and their families to ensure that sound decisions are taken, and once taken that they are implemented effectively and efficiently.
The uncertainty about the future of CHD services has been unsettling for staff and for patients and their families for many years. While this process is designed to bring that uncertainty to an end, it is inevitable that during the coming weeks and months fresh concerns will emerge and we hope and expect that you will work with us to reassure patients and their families and your staff who are potentially affected by any changes if they are decided on.