Councillors ask Lansley to save LGI heart unit

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HEALTH Secretary Andrew Lansley could make the final decision over the future of children’s heart surgery in Yorkshire after the decision to axe it was referred to him by councillors.

Leeds councillors across all five parties and 33 wards backed a motion last night calling on the Health Secretary to review the decision, warning it left 5.5 million people in Yorkshire and 14 million people within a two-hour drive of the city “severely and disproportionately disadvantaged”.

The council’s motion now goes to Yorkshire’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee – which represent the region’s 15 biggest councils – who will decide whether to refer the matter to Mr Lansley.

Leeds General Infirmary’s Children’s Heart Unit is set to be closed with patients being sent to Newcastle for life-saving operations instead.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds Council’s executive member for health, said she hoped the scrutiny committee would send the decision to Mr Lansley as the closure of the unit would affect patients across Yorkshire.

Children worst affected by the decision live in North Lincolnshire from where they face a journey of more than three hours to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

In the meeting Coun Mulherin said: “The future of the Leeds unit should have been secure because all the different vital services are under one roof at Leeds General Infirmary, only one other unit in the country has that and none in the North. The decision taken last week takes no account of geography or demography.”

The move came as the closure of the unit was defended by David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions when he was confronted over the issue by Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland.

The Liberal Democrat branded as “absurd” the decision by NHS officials to close the service, which will mean hundreds of children from the region will have to travel to Newcastle each year for treatment.