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Editorial Wednesday 12 June 2013: Closing time

It really needs a clinician to write this piece about the decision to kick back the IRP on children's heart surgery, and a clinician is one of the many things I am not. There we go.

Closing time is rarely punters' favourite bit of the evening in a pub, though the staff are quite keen on it. Closing time in the NHS manages to unite the punters and the staff against it.

For an organisation that has been closing hospital beds since 1948, and closed the mental health hospitals some years after Enoch Powell's famous water towers speech, the NHS has come in recent years to think of itself as quite bad at closing stuff.

The Kidderminster Effect of hospital consultant Dr Richard Taylor's election victory had a clear and baleful political impact on MPs' attitudes to closing time.

And as I have written in the past here and here, reconfiguration - i.e. closing things - is hard to do and produces losers.

It is now twelve years since the final Kennedy Report into the Bristol Royal Infirmary's paediatric heart surgery was published thanks to the whistleblower Steve Bolsin alerting Private Eye, calling for a reduction in paediatric cardiac surgery into fewer and more specialist centres.

Since then, my friend Dr Phil Hammond has been Stakhanovite in his persistence in keeping the issue on the agenda, Sir Ian Kennedy likewise.

And still it has not happened.

There seems to be agreement among all sites that there should be further centralisation. None is putting up their hand to be closed.

That is probably human nature: it's hard to admit in public that you're doing less than a good job. It is equally very dispiriting that after twelve years, we are still nowhere on this.

I'm watching Sir Ian Kennedy on Newsnight, and I think he's referring to my friend Maria Von Hildebrand (previously Shortis) and her pursuit of improved services in the memorial of her child who died.

I wonder what Maria thinks about this.