A HARROGATE mum says her 12-year-old daughter may not be alive today if she had been forced to travel to Newcastle for emergency care, as proposed under controversial NHS plans.
Patti Cook, whose daughter Isabella was born with a back-to-front heart, told the Advertiser that lives would be in danger if proposals to close the children’s heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) went ahead.
“This unit is hugely important to us,” Patti said.
“Isabella was just a tiny baby when she first went there and it took three hours to get her ready from Harrogate Hospital, which is only 35 minutes away.
“If she had had to go further away, I don’t even know if she would have made it.
“How many children is this going to affect?”
Patti added that Isabella, who has raised £100,000 for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, is now awaiting her next operation and the significance of a child being comfortable with her surroundings ahead of important surgery should not be underestimated.
“She’s only 12, she’s scared, and for her to feel safe and secure, it’s massively important,” she said.
“I want the same person who’s operated on her in the past and people she actually recognises, so she’s not scared.
“I’m sure there are hundreds of parents like me who are feeling exactly the same. Anybody who’s ever had a poorly child will understand the security of having a hospital that they know and can use nearby. I can’t believe they’re even considering this.”
An NHS review has looked into the 11 children’s heart units in England, proposing four options, each of which would reduce the number of units nationwide to either six or seven. Only one of the scenarios would see the LGI centre kept open.
Sharon Cheng, charity director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, which has launched a Save Our Surgeries campaign, said: “We’re outraged for many reasons.
“We don’t know why we scored so low in the review and we don’t understand why a service would be moved into a smaller population that doesn’t have the road links that we have.”
She said people in Harrogate would probably have to travel to Newcastle, with the problem being compounded if difficulties in an emergency case turned out not to be heart-related and a child then had to go back to Leeds.
“Time is of the essence and there could be a fatality in that case,” she said.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “If this unit was to close it would mean that families would be left with no option but to travel long distances to specialist units in Birmingham, Leicester, Newcastle or Liverpool.
“At times of great stress and where minutes matter, this is not a practical option for families in this constituency.”
A petition launched to oppose the closures has already attracted 19,040 signatures and can be found at www.thepetitionsite.com/6/help-to-save-ward-10-childrens-cardiac-lgi
Patti said she wanted to encourage people to write to their MP and sign the petition, adding that Isabella planned to take one to school for her friends to sign.