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Health Insight May 2001:
Heart enquiry finds communication problems

  An inquiry into the way children with heart defects were treated at two ‘centres of excellence’ in England has blamed poor communication between doctors and families, and lack of resources for dissatisfaction among parents. Doctors at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and the Harefield Hospital in Middlesex failed to put patients first, and offered parents a biased view of only some of the treatment options available for children with Down’s syndrome, according to the independent inquiry panel’s report.

Although it stopped short of accusing doctors of discrimination, the report stated that, ‘children were less favoured in accessing treatment because of their Down’s syndrome.’ The inquiry was commissioned by the hospitals eighteen months ago, after parents whose children had been treated at the hospitals between 1987 and 1999 complained that the results after surgery were worse than elsewhere. An earlier review, however, had found no evidence that this was the case. The report clears doctors of any negligence, although many are criticised for poor communication and worrying about whether parents would be able to look after a child, rather than whether surgery would be beneficial. The Report of the Independent Inquiries into Paediatric Cardiac Services is available at www.rbh.nthames.nhs.uk.

Source: BMJ 7 April

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