The NHS provides more than 98% of all surgical procedures in infants and children in the United Kingdom through a comprehensive network of secondary (typically for the general surgery of childhood) and tertiary (specialist neonatal and specialist pediatric surgery) centers [n = 22]), typically located within large conurbations. It was originally envisaged that these specialized centers would be able to provide the full range of surgical interventions (aside from organ transplantation). However, there has been a trend toward centralization of some key procedures, previously thought to be within general neonatal surgery.
The architype for centralization is the management of biliary atresia (BA). Since 1999, within England and Wales, this has been exclusively managed in three centers (King's College Hospital, London; Birmingham Children's Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary). All of these provide facilities for the diagnosis of BA, primary surgical management (Kasai portoenterostomy), and liver transplantation if required. The case for centralization was made by rigorous national outcome analysis during the 1990s showing marked disparity based on case volume and driven by parents' organizations and national media. Following centralization, national outcome data showed improvement and provided a benchmark for others to follow.
The management of bladder exstrophy was later centralized in England and Wales, albeit not based on strict outcome data, to two centers (Great Ormond Street, London and Royal Manchester Children's Hospital).