Bristol heart scandal

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The Bristol heart scandal occurred in England during the 1990s. At the Bristol Royal Infirmary, babies died at high rates after cardiac surgery. An inquiry found "staff shortages, a lack of leadership, [a] ... unit ... 'simply not up to the task' ... 'an old boy's culture' among doctors, a lax approach to safety, secrecy about doctors' performance and a lack of monitoring by management".[1] The scandal resulted in cardiac surgeons leading efforts to publish more data on the performance of doctors and hospitals.[1][2]

An investigation chaired by Professor Ian Kennedy QC was set up in 1998. It reported in 2001.,[3] It concluded that paediatric cardiac surgery services at Bristol were "simply not up to the task", because of shortages of key surgeons and nurses, and a lack of leadership, accountability, and teamwork.

The NHS Plan 2000 published a year earlier, included the establishment of the Commission for Health Improvement, which was intended to tackle such problems.[4]

By 2010 the mortality rate within 30 days of a child's heart operation had fallen from 4.3% in 2000 to 2.6%. Plans to reduce the number of centres performing childrens heart surgery have been opposed. [5] A report to NHS England in July 2015 proposed a “three tier” model for all hospitals providing congenital heart disease care. It suggested that they would work within “regional, multi-centre networks, bringing together foetal, children’s and adult services” and noted that since 2001 there “have been subsequent reviews each making a series of recommendations, but no coordinated programme of change, and concerns have remained”.[6]

Ten further children died at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children following heart surgery in 2013-5 and Ian Kennedy was again recruited to head an enquiry.[7] The inquiry was ongoing in 2015.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rebecca Smith (29 July 2010) "Bristol heart scandal" The Telegraph. Accessed 28 August 2011.
  2. ^ Smith R (June 1998). "All changed, changed utterly. British medicine will be transformed by the Bristol case". BMJ. 316 (7149): 1917–8. doi:10.1136/bmj.316.7149.1917. PMC 1113398Freely accessible. PMID 9641922. 
  3. ^ "Who's who". The Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry. Archived from the original on 11 August 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Butler, Patrick (17 January 2002). "The Bristol Royal infirmary inquiry: the issue explained". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "Child heart surgery deaths in UK 'halved'". BBC News. 3 April 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "NHS England review calls for shake-up of children's heart surgery". Health Service Journal. 22 July 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  7. ^ "Grieving parents' fury over children's hospital deaths: How many will die before we get truth?". Daily Mirror. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Michael Yong (25 September 2015). "Staff at Bristol's Children's Hospital to be interviewed by independent inquiry team". Bristol Post. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 

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