18 March 2017 – Thousands march to save Royal Brompton services from closure
Nearly two thousand Trust staff, patients and supporters marched through Chelsea on Saturday to protest against NHS England plans to decommission congenital heart services.
Despite being organised as a protest, the march had a positive atmosphere that was as much a celebration of the ground breaking services Royal Brompton provides as it was a call for NHS England and health secretary Jeremy Hunt not to tear them apart.
The carnival-like atmosphere was enhanced by the presence of the official Olympic drumming band, accompanied by supporters on drums and whistles, and chants from the crowd of “Brompton patients matter” and “Hell no, we won’t go!”. Hundreds of people also wore the official red campaign t-shirts, with other protesters also wearing red in a striking display of solidarity.
Trudy Nickels of Brompton Fountain, one of the charities behind the event, said that the march was the biggest event of its kind she or any of her partner charities had experienced. “That so many people have given up their Saturdays to protest against these nonsensical plans just shows how passionately everyone values the world-class care that Royal Brompton provides”, she continued.
Sally Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Huyton, chair of Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, was the first of a number of speakers to give rousing speeches that stirred up the crowd before the march. She was followed on the podium by Dr Mike Rigby, consultant paediatric cardiologist at Royal Brompton, and by local MP Greg Hands, whose promise to take the issue directly to the health minister in charge of hospital care was greeted with cheers from the crowd.
However, the biggest cheer of the day was saved for legendary former speaker of the House of Commons, Baroness Betty Boothroyd, who concluded a passionate speech by telling NHS England “get your meddling hands off our hospital”.
It was then left to Trudy and Gill Raikes, chief executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity (who also helped organise the march) to give the countdown that sent demonstrators off on the 2 kilometre route around Chelsea.
Taking place during the same week in which over 20 MPs publicly called for NHS England’s plans to be blocked, the march adds yet more pressure to NHS England and health secretary Jeremy Hunt to overturn NHS England’s plans to decommission services.
Elizabeth Henderson of the charity Friends of Royal Brompton, who also helped organised the march, said that they can expect yet more pressure to come. “NHS England’s plans will force over 12,5000 CHD patients to find care elsewhere, will destroy Royal Brompton’s world-leading CHD research unit, and will force the closure of other services such as cystic fibrosis and difficult asthma. Yet for all this upheaval, NHS England simply cannot explain how these plans will make things better for patients.
“We are therefore determined to keep campaigning until these ridiculous plans are dropped”.
09 February 2017 – Public consultation on congenital heart services launched
Today, NHS England launched its much-delayed public consultation on the national congenital heart disease (CHD) review, including plans to withdraw CHD services from the Trust.
The consultation will run until 5 June 2017 and thousands of patients, their families and carers, support groups and charities are expected to attend stakeholder events and submit written responses.
Despite our campaigning during the pre-consultation period, the plans that have been put out to public consultation fail to include a number of important details:
- It does not explain how NHS England think patient care and outcomes to improve for current Royal Brompton patients. Without this, no one can assess whether the plan is in the interest of patients.
- It does not explain what the total cost will be of transferring the care of the 14,000 Royal Brompton staff affected by this plan. Without this, no one can assess whether the plan is value for money, at a time when the NHS is under such huge financial pressure.
- It completely ignores the impact of closing Royal Brompton’s world-leading adult CHD research unit. Any public consultation on future care quality that ignores the role of the world’s leading research institution in that field is not complete.
- It says that, because a small number of services for children at Royal Brompton are provided jointly with a neighbouring NHS hospital, the level of care is somehow substandard. But there is no evidence for this: if this was the case, Royal Brompton wouldn’t already be one of the best-performing CHD services in the country
- It includes no plans for what will happen to the thousands of children that use the other Royal Brompton services – such as cystic fibrosis, difficult asthma, pulmonary hypertension, and cardiac care in pregnancy – that will be closed as a result of this plan. Ignoring so many vulnerable patients means no one can assess whether the plan is justified.
We will be publishing advice for how you can respond to the public consultation on our website in the coming days.
Trudy Nickels, director of The Brompton Fountain, said: “NHS England haven’t listed to us so far, but I can guarantee that they will hear us soon. We will take to the streets and do whatever we have to do to make sure these nonsensical plans do not go ahead”.
Gill Raikes, chief executive of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity, commented: “NHS England can expect a lot of very forthright consultation responses from patients, doctors, friends and family members who feel very strongly that these plans do not reflect the best interests of patients.
“I would certainly encourage everyone affected by these plans to make their voices heard by responding to the consultation, and by continuing to write to their MPs – even if they have done so before. It is now more important than ever that as much scrutiny is applied to these plans as possible.
21 December 2016 – Brompton Fountain’s Christmas message to Jeremy Hunt
This week, we delivered a giant Christmas card to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, asking him to overturn NHS England plans to decommission congenital heart disease (CHD) services at Royal Brompton hospital.
Hundreds of you signed and sent in your personal messages for the card. Many of you shared moving details of how Royal Brompton staff have helped you, your family or friends, and what the hospital means to you. We will be sharing some of these messages on our Facebook and Twitter pages over the next few days.
Delivering the card alongside Brompton Fountain Director Trudy Nickels were three people with their own unique stories to tell: 20 year-old Tom, 7 year old Alihan, and Theo, who is less than one year old. All of them have been treated for CHD at Royal Brompton since birth.
Although Mr Hunt wasn’t available to receive the card personally, the team at the Department of Health promised that the card would get to him.
We hope that by reading the hundreds of heartfelt messages, this card will help Mr Hunt see the human impact of NHS England’s plans. Our message was the Royal Brompton is not just a hospital: it is thousands of patients who have been cared for here their entire life, and who want to carry on being cared for here.
Our Christmas card message to Jeremy Hunt MP
Dear Mr Hunt,
NHS England managers are planning to close our congenital heart disease unit at Royal Brompton Hospital. You can save it.
For many of us, Royal Brompton is a home from home. Many have been cared for here, some before they were even born. Many of us would not be alive if it was not for this fantastic hospital.
We shouldn’t waste money closing down a centre that works really well and is one of the best in the country. We know money is already a problem in the NHS. This plan is trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
Please think of us this Christmas and save our unit.
Yours in hope,
The patients, families and supporters of Royal Brompton Hospital’s congenital heart disease unit.