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Heart team reviewed after deaths

The deaths of four people within a month of their operations has led the national health watchdog to look into Harefield Hospital’s heart transplant programme.

Four consecutive deaths were reported between July and September, whereas no patients died within 30 days last year.

Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust said it would be working with the Healthcare Commission and the National Specialised Commissioning Team (NSC Team) over the next month.

A spokeswoman said: “As part of the trust’s routine monitoring and audit of its transplant operations, data is collected on post-operative survival including 30-day survival rates.

“Over the summer months of 2008, the trust noted a small increase in mortality rates within 30 days of heart transplant surgery and, specifically, that the small number of deaths had occurred consecutively.”

The four unsuccessful operations were carried out by three different surgeons.

The review will be carried out by an independent heart transplant surgeon and a transplant cardiologist, agreed by the trust, the NSC Team and the Healthcare Commission.

A spokeswoman said: “If suitable donor organs become available during the course of the review, the transplant team will consult with the external reviewers before undertaking any heart transplantations.

“All other services, including the Ventricular Assist Device and lung transplantation programmes, will continue as normal.”

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