Heart unit for Harrogate kids still under threat after ruling

Campaigners arriving at 10 Downing Street in June, when they handed over a petition of more than 500,000 signatures protesting against the possible closure of the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured are campaigners Kim Botham, 22, Isabella Cook, 13, and Jon Arnold with daughter Zoe, four. (S)
Campaigners arriving at 10 Downing Street in June, when they handed over a petition of more than 500,000 signatures protesting against the possible closure of the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured are campaigners Kim Botham, 22, Isabella Cook, 13, and Jon Arnold with daughter Zoe, four. (S)
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A CHILDREN’S heart surgery unit in Leeds remains under threat, after a decision by the Court of Appeal.

The court ruled that a consultation on the future of ward 10 at Leeds General Infirmary – and others across the UK – was lawful.

The High Court of Appeal chose to accept the Joint Chairs of the Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) appeal against a judicial review by the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust had brought the review following an announcement that it would not be included in any of the options put forward by the JCPCT.

The Leeds ward has appeared in jeopardy ever since the NHS published four alternate plans for the future, only one of which involved retaining it.

The NHS Safe and Sustainable review could see facilities in Leeds closed down and moved to Newcastle, or even just one unit in Liverpool remaining open to deliver services to the entire North of England.

Families of children who have received care at the unit have told the Advertiser that lives will be lost if it is closed.

Allison Mace, whose granddaughter Georgia was treated at ward 10, said last year : “I shudder to think what the outcome will be if the unit at Leeds closes and it needs to be done in an emergency and she has to rely on Newcastle or Birmingham.”

But Sharon Cheng from the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) – which is campaigning to keep ward 10 open – said the JCPCT has now said it could consider alternative plans to those originally recommended.

“We are of course disappointed by the decision not to uphold the appeal against the judicial review,” she said.

“We have, however, received assurances from JCPCT that it is considering configuration options other than those recommended - some of which do include Leeds after we made the case for a further ‘Option E’ to Sir Neil McKay, the JCPCT chairman.

“Maintaining the Leeds Unit is the only way of ensuring a safe and sustainable settlement for the North of England given the issues we have previously put forward regarding patient travel assumptions and minimum operations expectations. We actively expect that JCPCT is looking at configuration options which would preserve Leeds.”

A final decision will now be made on July 4.

The facility in Leeds currently provides services to 5.5m people, with a population of 14m within a two-hour drive of Leeds.

Widespread support for the unit has been seen from parents, patients and stakeholders since the campaign began, with 600,000 people signing a petition in support of the unit in Leeds City Centre.

For more information, go to www.chsf.org.uk.