New hope for heart unit campaigners

Jon Trickett MP
Jon Trickett MP
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CAMPAIGNERS have been given new hope in their fight to save the children’s heart surgery in Leeds after closure plans were delayed by a health watchdog.

The centre at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) was earmarked for closure by the NHS after of a review of children’s heart services.

The Joint Committee for Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) decided on July 4 to close the unit in favour of having fewer, larger sites across the country.

The decision will mean that poorly children in the area will have to travel to Newcastle, Liverpool, or Birmingham for surgery.

But at a public meeting on Tuesday, July 24, the decision was referred by the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Yorkshire to the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, who will now decide its fate.

The unit saved the life of four-year-old Luke Barber, from Hemsworth, who has suffered with chronic heart and lung disease and has undergone five operations at the unit.

Luke now only has to see a specialist every two years, but his family were still outraged to hear that the unit was to be closed.

His mum Theresa Barber said: “It’s a bit more reassuring that it’s being taken out of the trusts’ hands. But until they say it’s staying open I don’t want to get my hopes up.

“Luke shouldn’t need more care for two years but if anything happens in the meantime going all that way would be awful.”

Hundreds of poorly children, parents, nurses and politicians marched through the streets of Leeds on Monday, July 23, to protest against the closure.

At the meeting the following day, Sir Neil McKay, who led the inquiry into children’s heart surgery, told the Yorkshire watchdog that the inquiry’s conclusion was correct and that all concerns had been listened to.

He said: “There was always going to be disappointment, always likely to be children and their families having to travel further than existing centres.”

But the committee, which represents councils across Yorkshire, said the decision to refer the matter had been unanimous.

Jon Trickett, Hemsworth MP, said: “I welcome this review. If you’ve got a relative with a health condition you want them to be able to go to the nearest hospital. It’s too far for people to have to go, and not everybody has access to a car. It’s deeply disturbing and it’s not acceptable.”