A flawed process

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THE High Court ruling in favour of campaigners fighting to retain children’s heart surgery in Yorkshire represents a significant victory in the battle to ensure the unit’s survival.

In agreeing with the case put forward by the Save Our Surgery group that scores crucial to the final outcome were wrongly withheld from Leeds General Infirmary, thereby limiting its ability to make a compelling case for the centre staying open, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies signalled that the process which concluded with the recommendation to shut it was itself fatally flawed.

Victory offered vindication for the campaigners who launched the action on the basis that they “simply could not stand by and watch a clear injustice being done” – as well as for the 600,000 people who signed the petition calling for the unit to stay open.

However, while yesterday’s ruling is to be welcomed, it is a matter of regret that it reached the stage where a legal challenge was deemed to be necessary.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts which took the decision to close the unit, may say he is disappointed that the reform of children’s heart services will now be delayed, but if the body had made the relevant material available when asked to do so this scenario could have been avoided.

Given that this is a highly emotive issue – and one crucial to so many families in Yorkshire – the refusal by the JCPCT of a specific request for disclosure smacked of an arrogant disregard for the concerns of patients, parents and clinicians alike.

In light of this ruling, there must now be nothing short of a full reassessment of the merits of each centre in terms of their ability to deliver high-standard and accessible treatment to those children in our region and beyond who suffer from serious heart conditions.