Parents of children who died on a cardiac ward at Bristol Children’s Hospital have criticised the findings of an independent inquiry.
The inquiry, commissioned by NHS England, found the ward was understaffed and subsequently under strain which put lives at risk.
But a 239-page review found no evidence to suggest failings on the scale of a previous inquiry in 2001 after 35 babies died and dozens more were left brain damaged at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
Outcomes of care at the hospital were ‘broadly comparable’ with those of other centres caring for children with congenital heart disease, it said.
Ten families are now taking legal action against University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust – including seven whose children died after treatment on Ward 32.
Emma Poton, the mother of four-month old Lacey-Marie who died in 2013 just hours after being sent home from A&E, told the Daily Mail she thought the inquiry was a “whitewash”.
Ms Poton, 22, said: “I am really angry and shocked. We don’t know Lacey-Marie’s actual cause of death.”
The inquiry was ordered in 2014 after a number of parents alleged that their children had died or been harmed following heart surgery at the hospital.
It found that most families were “satisfied” with the care they were given which was on a par with other hospitals.
But chair, Eleanor Grey QC, said: “The ward that the children were cared for, that’s Ward 32, in that period from 2010 to 2012 was routinely under strain.
“The nursing numbers would have fallen below the recommended levels on a reasonably frequent basis. We felt that children were put at risk of harm as a result.”
Robert Woolley, chief executive of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said the review found evidence of ‘really good care’ and acknowledged ‘substantial improvements’ had been made.
He added: “We fully accept the findings of these reports and welcome their publication as a way to learn from mistakes.
“We didn’t get it right for these families, and I’d like to apologise to the families unreservedly, on behalf of everyone at the trust.”
The findings of the inquiry included 32 recommendations for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England and the Department of Health.
These include that a national review of paediatric intensive care services should take place and conversations with clinicians should be recorded.
Following the review, NHS England said major changes in the way heart services are provided across the country would be announced next week.