Parents ‘devastated’ by heart unit decision

Families on ward 12 at the LGI watch a live stream, anxiously awaiting news of whether children's heart surgery would be retained at the hospital.

Families on ward 12 at the LGI watch a live stream, anxiously awaiting news of whether children's heart surgery would be retained at the hospital.

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Harrogate parents are “devastated” that children who need heart surgery will soon have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool, after a controversial decision by health chiefs.

Harrogate parents are “devastated” that children who need heart surgery will soon have to travel to Newcastle or Liverpool, after a controversial decision by health chiefs.

An NHS committee has decided to stop offering the service at Leeds General Infirmary, despite a two-year campaign by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, charity The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund and parents across the district.

Rebecca Waring, of St George’s Walk, whose four-year-old daughter Megan Hobbs had heart surgery at the unit aged eight months old, said she was “absolutely devastated” by the decision.

“We’ve been trying so hard to get it to stay open, it just feels like we haven’t been listened to at all,” she said. “There’s a feeling of disbelief that so many people can want something to stay open and it can still be closed.”

And she echoed the concerns of other parents who say lives could be lost as a result of the decision.

“My daughter had a spell, and it was life or death,” she said. “We rushed straight up to Leeds. If it had taken us 15 minutes more, she would not be here today. It’s still touch and go for a lot of children.”

An official review said services should be at fewer, larger sites to improve standards and stop expertise being spread too thinly.

More than 600,000 people signed a petition against the closure, which was taken to 10 Downing Street.

Chairman of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Mike Collier, said: “This decision seems almost perverse in light of the information which became available during the course of the consultation process.”

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said he and other members were looking at all options, including judicial review.

The decision was made in London last Wednesday when the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts decided children’s heart surgery would continue at just seven centres from 2014.

Norman Williams, from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, defended the move, saying: “All surgeons want to be able to deliver the best quality of care for every patient.

“While we understand that people do not want to see the unit that is close to them close, the extensive review process indicates that improvements are achievable by concentrating children’s heart surgery in fewer, larger units in England.”

Campaigners plan to hold a protest in Leeds next month.

Meanwhile, a health “watchdog” representing every council in Yorkshire has secured a face-to-face meeting with the man who has proposed the closure of the heart surgery unit.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts, will come to Yorkshire to discuss the plans with members of the scrutiny of health committees of every authority in the region.

“This is a very hopeful step forward, since it will allow us to put our concerns to Sir Neil in person, and to examine his arguments in great detail,” said Coun Jim Clark, chairman of the scrutiny of health committee.