The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) was disappointed but not surprised at the news that Dr Nihal Weerasena, a paeadiatric congenital heart surgeon from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT) has been found guilty of misconduct by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
As the national charity concerned with congenital heart disease, CHF has access to a broad range of information, particularly about the service that patients and parents are exp
eriencing or have experienced. Aware that there was much concern about the paediatric cardiac care service at LTHT, concerns dismissed by the Trust, early in 2013 CHF wrote formerly to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with those concerns and seeking assurances that there were no unsafe practices at the Trust and that all children and their carers are being treated appropriately. CHF never received a satisfactory response.
CHF notes that the MPTS has now ruled that Dr Weerasena had shown “reckless disregard for patient safety”.
Leeds in trying to protect its reputation as a safe surgical centre continued their denial that there were any grounds for concern. When it became public knowledge that Dr Weerasena had ceased operating, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust deliberately misled patients and their families by describing the suspension from surgical activity as a secondment and continuing to list Dr Weerasena as a cardiac surgeon.
CHF recognises that since 2013 there have been significant changes to both the Management Team and the Clinical Team, nevertheless we feel that the Trust was playing politics with children’s safety in its attempt to protect its future at the time of the Safe and Sustainable Review.
The safety and wellbeing of children’s health was exacerbated by the lobbying on behalf of Leeds surgical unit by politicians, clinicians and the church –– the child was of less concern than the status of the Trust.
This feels like a repeat of the situation at Bristol where the inappropriate support of surgeons overlooked the very children who need objectivity, focus and responsibility in their clinical care. Who is in charge in this situation? Who is looking out for the children?
The Congenital Heart Services have recently gone through yet another review, and NHS England is preparing to consult again on further change.
Will this happen again with another Trust?
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Notes to Editors