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Bristol children's hospital scandal left a bitter taste.

* HE final go-ahead for the pounds 64m second phase of the Children's Hospital for Wales brings to an end a 15-year long campaign to get a proper children's hospital built.

What we are getting now is a much bigger investment than the original pounds 40m project but the length of time it has taken to get where we are today has been caused by trying to define what a fully-fledged children's hospital is.

We know that North Wales children will continue to go to Alder Hey in Liverpool.

We know that it is far too late now to bring children's heart surgery back from Bristol and Birmingham.

The project should prevent any further transfers of super-specialist services of that kind out of Wales.

What happened with children's heart surgery 15 years ago is an object lesson for all politicians and NHS managers. Bristol and Cardiff both had paediatric cardiology and surgery units.

They were less than 50 miles apart, too close really but both served their respective regions.

One was doing a very good job. The other was hit by the worst scandal in NHS history. The end result of that horror story was that one of the two units was closed.

Obviously you would think it was the scandal-hit unit that would go and all the children needing heart surgery would be transferred over to the unit blamelessly doing an excellent job.

It didn't happen that way.

The bizarre outcome of the Bristol children's heart surgery scandal was that the Cardiff unit was closed.

This was just before devolution in 1999. The scandal rocking the Bristol heart unit was so bad, the NHS in England decided it had to throw huge sums of money at solving it, shutting the stable doors and fitting gold-plated locks as well. The cardiologist in Cardiff was persuaded to go over to help sort it out.

Without him, the brilliant cardiac surgeon, Mr Musumeci decided to return home to Italy and Wales lost the service.

Once the new Children's Hospital is in place, a crazy episode like that will never happen again.

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* An artist's impression of the second phase of the Children's Hospital for Wales which has been given the go-ahead after a 15-year campaign
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 17, 2011
Words:373
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