Distress over lack of action to tackle child heart deaths

A North East MP who persuaded the Government to improve treatment guidelines for young heart patients has reacted angrily to news that most of the NHS is ignoring the advice.

A year ago, Stockton South MP Dari Taylor was celebrating after the Government announced it was adopting her proposals that could reduce the death toll from rare heart defects.

She became involved in the campaign after a number of sudden, unexplained deaths involving young people in the region.

They included brother and sister Anne-Marie and Daniel Readshaw, from Ferryhill, County Durham, who died two years apart.

Mrs Taylor convinced the Government that better screening of young people could save lives by identifying people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death and providing guidelines for managing their conditions.

But a year after the changes to the National Service Framework, a survey by the heart charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) has revealed that 97 per cent of primary care trusts have failed to develop a strategy for putting into practice any of the proposals.

Last night, Mrs Taylor, who threatened to push through a Private Members Bill to improve screening for young people with rare heart conditions before the Government gave in, spoke of her distress at the lack of progress.

She said: "It was me that got the minister to understand that we were facing a situation of young people suddenly dying when, through screening, we could have done so much to have prevented that taking place."

But she said that, despite the changes to guidelines, nothing appeared to be happening.

Mrs Taylor said: "It really makes me feel very distressed. We have put this model of medical delivery together and it is very obvious that it is not being picked up."

The MP said GPs did not appear to be sending young people with suspected undiagnosed heart conditions to see a specialist, even when they had complained of breathlessness or blackouts.

CRY has responded by calling on MPs to put pressure on the Government to ensure implementation of the strategy.

Anne-Marie and Daniel Readshaw are thought to have been victims of sudden cardiac death syndrome.

Last night, their grandmother, Kath Conroy, said: "It is very disappointing and annoying when we have gone to the trouble of having this big awareness campaign, yet nothing seems to be happening."