It has been recently reported that long waits for paediatric spinal deformity surgery may have made worsened the condition of five children in our care. We wanted to share some more information to support anyone who may be concerned by this press story.
Why do delays happen?
Children and young people’s spinal surgery is a very complex. It requires a lot of expertise and specialist equipment. It must also be performed in a special environment with intensive care facilities.
Our spinal surgeons work between the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and Birmingham Women's and Children's Hospital (BWCH). They treat young spinal patients at BWCH because they have they have the right environment to perform this surgery, namely Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) beds.
We do not have PICU beds at The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital which is why an agreement exists between the two hospitals to share these facilities. Unfortunately, PICU beds are in very short supply. They are commissioned (paid for) nationally by the NHS England Specialised Commissioning Team.
We have worked closely with NHS England Specialised Commissioning and our local commissioners for more than two years to find more capacity (more beds) to treat our patients. It has not been possible for health system to provide additional protected capacity, so delays have been an unfortunate consequence.
Have children’s conditions been made worse by waiting?
We regularly review all of our paediatric spinal patients. Of everyone we care for, we have assessed that five patients’ conditions may have been made worse by their long waits. Of course, we made this an immediate priority. Four of these patients have now been treated and one patient has a date scheduled for their surgery.
Our first priority is always to provide safe and effective care. Our spinal surgeons are among the best in the country and provide amazing care to patients.
What about data errors?
This did not affect any children in our care. Every child was regularly reviewed and never out of contact with the hospital. The long waits children and their families experience with spinal surgery is because there is are not enough beds to treat them.
How will you ensure this doesn’t happen again?
We are working closely with national and local commissioners to ensure that there is an effective paediatric spinal service locally with enough capacity to treat patients.
We will continue to closely monitor all of our patients to ensure that they are well cared for as they wait for surgery.
Is surgery at the ROH safe?
Yes. We provide high quality and safe services. In fact, we were recently rated in the top ten Trusts in the country for patient experience. We have been safely and effective treating children with the most complex spinal conditions for the whole of the West Midlands and beyond for many years.
Where can I find more support?